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Paul Marie Eugène Vieille - Famous Inventor

: Paul Marie Eugène Vieille
: 2-September-1854
: 14-January-1934
: France
: Ecole Polytechnique
: French chemist and inventor

About Inventor

Paul Marie Eugène Vieille (2 September 1854 – 14 January 1934),a graduate of Ecole Polytechnique, was a French chemist and the inventor of modern nitrocellulose-based smokeless gunpowder in 1884. The new smokeless powder was three times as powerful as black powder for the same weight and left virtually no residues of combustion. Paul Vieille soon became director of the "Laboratoire Central des Poudres et Salpetres" in Paris where his research had taken place. His invention was applied not only to small arms but also to the full range of artillery ammunition. His invention was widely followed within a short time by all the major military powers. Vieille received the Prix Leconte (?50,000) in 1889 in recognition of his discovery. Veille was a member of the French Academy of Sciences.

French chemist Paul Vieille had followed the findings of German-Swiss chemist Christian Friedrich Schonbein, who had created the explosive nitrocellulose or "guncotton" in 1846 by treating cotton fibers with a nitric acid and sulphuric acid mixture. However guncotton, an explosive substance, proved to be too fast burning at the time for direct use in firearms and artillery ammunition. Then Paul Vieille went one step further in 1882-84 and, after many trials and errors, succeeded in transforming guncotton into a colloidal substance by gelatinizing it in an alcohol-ether mixture following which he stabilized it with amyl alcohol. He then used roller presses to transform this gelatinized colloidal substance into extremely thin sheets which, after drying, were cut up into small flakes. This single-base smokeless powder was originally named "Poudre V" after the inventor's name. That denomination was later changed arbitrarily to "Poudre B" in order to distract German espionage. The original "Poudre B" of 1884 was almost immediately replaced by improved "Poudre BF(NT)" in 1888. In 1896 "Poudre BF(NT)" was replaced by "Poudre BF(AM)" which was followed by "Poudre BN3F" in 1901. The latter was stabilized with the antioxidant diphenylamine instead of amyl alcohol and it gave safe and regular performance as the standard French gunpowder used during World War I (1914–1918). It was followed during the 1920s by "Poudre BN3F(Ae)" and later by "Poudre BPF1", which remained in service until the 1960s.