Nicolas Leblanc, doctor-surgeon to the Duke of Orléans, developed the extraction of artificial soda in the 1790s. Ruined and dispossessed of his invention on the death of its donor, he ended tragically when his process had considerably advanced the modern chemical industry practices.

The story is tragic, but fascinating: that of a product to which the chemical industry owes its golden age in the XNUMXth century. But also that of the greatness and decadence of its inventor, Nicolas Leblanc, who, dispossessed of his invention, ends up committing suicide.

On the eve of the Revolution, France depended on foreign countries to supply its soap factories and glass factories with natural soda (from the salt crusts of certain lakes and the incineration of marine plants). It was as doctor-surgeon to the Duke of Orléans that Leblanc obtained financial support from the latter to develop the extraction of artificial soda from sea salt. A process whose supremacy will last seventy years. This capital discovery makes available to the industry a guarantee of ad libitum supply at low prices. The Duke of Orléans joined forces with Leblanc to create a factory in Saint-Denis which produced 300 kg of soda per day from 1792.

Alas… the death of the donor on the scaffold marks the dismemberment of the industrial tool from 1793 and the ruin of Leblanc. He is "invited" to make his process public. The paternity of the invention of soda will only be recognized posthumously, via a life annuity granted to his children by the government of the Second Empire.

Patent No. 1 BA 12, filed September 19, 1791