Aleksandar Zega

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Aleksandar Zega
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Born(1860 -05-29)May 29, 1860
Novo Selo, North Macedonia
DiedMarch 29, 1928(1928-03-29) (aged 67)
Belgrade, Serbia
Alma materUniversity of Zurich
AwardsOrder of Saint Sava

Aleksandar Zega (Novo Selo, 29 May 1860 - Belgrade, 29 March 1928) was a prominent Serbian chemist who held professional positions in the Government, Municipal and Customs Laboratories who also made a number of applied and theoretical contributions. He dealt with analytical and organic chemistry and paid special attention to the analysis of mineral waters and foodstuffs. He studied and worked in Switzerland for a while, but he published and wrote most of his works during his work and stayed in Serbia. He was a contemporary of Milorad Z. Jovičić (1868-1937) and Wladimir Brunetti.


He was born in 1860 in Novo Selo to Jelena and Kosta Zega who were landowners. He finished primary school in his hometown, attended high school in Pančevo, and universities in Vienna and Zurich. He graduated in Zurich in 1879. He was one of the winners of a scholarship from the Canton of Zurich, which enabled him to continue his studies of chemistry at the Polytechnic School and the University of Zurich. He studied with Viktor Meyer and Georg Lunge. After passing the graduation exam, he became an assistant in the chemical laboratory at Merz, at the University of Zurich. He studied and worked in this position for the next four years. In 1885 he defended his doctoral dissertation entitled Über die Einwirkung des para-Toluidins auf Resorcin und Hydrochinon - über die Einwirkungdes Anilins auf Orcin. From 1885 to 1886, he worked as an assistant to the town chemist Otto Kriper in Wuppertal.[1][2][3][4]

At the beginning of 1887, he came to Belgrade and on that occasion he applied to the Minister of Education for a job in high school. In February 1887, the Education Council estimated that Alexander was sufficiently qualified for the natural sciences, and especially chemistry and chemical technology, in which areas and subjects he also passed his doctorate, after which he proved to be a good independent worker.[5]

In the meantime, he returned to Switzerland, where he got a job as an assistant in a chemical agricultural station. The new job was also the reason why he had to turn down an invitation to work at the high school in Pirot. In early 1888, he again sought a job as a high school teacher, but without success, which is why he continued to work in Switzerland until 1891.[6][7] In the same year, he returned to Belgrade at the invitation of the Belgrade municipality to establish a chemical laboratory. Due to material reasons, the Belgrade municipality could not establish a laboratory, so Zega worked as a municipal chemist in the State Chemical Laboratory in the period from 1891 to 1906. In 1894, Zega applied for the position of professor of chemistry and chemical technology at the Grandes écoles but then Marko Leko was chosen instead.[8] He worked as a part-time manager of the chemical laboratory of the Customs House on the Sava in the period from 1906 to 1909. At the beginning of 1909, the Belgrade municipality opened its laboratory in which Zega studied the effects of aniline on orcinol at the beginning of World War I.

During the wars, he analyzed food and well water. He stayed in Ćuprija for a short time as a refugee, but at the beginning of 1916, he returned to Belgrade, where, with the permission of the occupiers, he managed to equip a chemical laboratory for testing food. During the construction of the Belgrade water supply system, he spent days with experts and workers and helped with the correction of all chemical and technical deficiencies. He also took samples from wells and filters and then performed chemical and bacteriological analysis. He tried to regularly perform bacteriological and hygienic analyzes of water samples from Makiš, but also well water. After his release, and until 1922, he worked in the Municipal Chemical Laboratory. He then transferred to the Customs Laboratory, where he worked until 1925.[9] In November 1926, he retired but was also transferred to the civil service as the head of the chemical laboratory within the Sava Customs House. In March 1927, he became seriously ill and retired. He died on 29 March 1928, in Belgrade at the age of 68.

Alexander Zega published about thirty scientific and professional papers in foreign and domestic journals. The papers were based on areas such as analytical and organic chemistry, as well as water and food analysis. He perfected and simplified many of the methods used in the research.

Zega was one of the founders of the Serbian Chemical Society (1897), in the period from 1907 to 1912 he was vice-president, and from 1912 to 1927 he was the president of the Society.

He was an active athlete and the founder of various sports clubs such as riding, skating, cycling, wrestling, etc. He was noted as an excellent shooter, swimmer, gymnast and swordsman. He was a member of the patriotic Društvo "Dušan Silni", "Dušan the Mighty" Society. [10]


His papers can be divided into four groups - papers in the field of analytical chemistry, papers in the field of organic chemistry, food analysis and mineral water analysis.

He published a considerable number of learned papers during his work in the State Chemical Laboratory. On that occasion, he published 38 papers.

Papers in the field of analytical chemistry

During the research, Zega strived to find methods for testing foodstuffs, which can be performed with simpler equipment and at the same time enable obtaining results that would meet strict European standards. He found a much simpler method for determining the fatty acids of tallow, butter, margarine and lard dissolved in water with sulfuric acid. In this way, he gave a micro method that avoids the use of a refractometer. During the Austrian occupation of his county, in an improvised laboratory, he and his daughter developed a simpler method for determining the fat in milk, which excluded the use of a centrifuge. He also described methods for colorimetric determination of iron, determination of viscosity in mineral oils, determination of consumption of potassium permanganate in drinking water and methods for testing brandy. [11]

He showed that the iodine number in fats and oils decreases with standing and thus criticized the iodine number.[12]

Papers in the field of organic chemistry

He worked in this field as a student at the Cantonal University in Zurich. In the laboratory of V. Merc he did his doctoral thesis which consisted of two partsːÜber die Einwirkung des p-Toluidins auf Resorcin - und - Hydrochinon and Über die Einwirkung des Anilins auf Orcin. The work is of a synthetic nature, and on that occasion, Zega obtained several aromatic amine compounds from p-toluidine with resorcinol or toluidine, from which he later derived various derivatives.

Food analyzes

As a municipal chemist, Zega performed analyzes of foodstuffs in Serbia that were unknown in Europe at the time. There was no standard for these foods, therefore, it was up to Zega to publish the results of his research and findings in German scientific journals. Significant works include studies of dairy products, most of which were not known in Central Europe, such as Serbian fasting cheese, Serbian cheese, manur, kajmak and cheese. Examinations of bread, corn, vegetables such as beans, eggplant, peas, bamnja, various mushrooms, etc. were also recorded.[13]

Mineral water analyzes

Mineral water was analyzed alone or in collaboration with Marko B. Nikolić. Twenty-two analyzes were published in 1902. Some of the analyzes include mineral waters in Mladenovac (1900), which he analyzed himself. Together with Marko B. Nikolić, he analyzed the waters in places such as Ribarska Banja (1899), Vrnjačka Banja (1900), Aleksandrovac (1904), Brđani (1904), Ivanjica (1904), Gornja Trepča Banja (1904), Buci (1905), Lukovo (1905), Žarevo (1905), Velika Vrbnica (1905), Đaka (1905).[14]

Other works

In addition to chemical analyzes, Zega also performed bacteriological analyzes and published two papers in this field: "On a chromogenic bacterium" and a paper on a constructed apparatus for taking water samples for later bacteriological analysis.[15]

Awards and Decorations

He was awarded the ribbon "For Honor and Loyalty", the silver monument "Dušan the Mighty" and the gold medal "The Best Knight". In 1921, at the celebration of the thirtieth anniversary of his work, he was awarded the Order of Saint Sava, 3rd degree by the Ministry of Education, Sci. & Tech. Development.[16]


  1. 10-годишњица од смрти д-ра Александра Зеге. 9. Гласник Хемијског друштва Краљевине Југославије. 1938. pp. 213–229.
  2. Марковић, М. (1938). Д-р Александар Зега. 5. Глас Матице српске. p. 86.
  3. Cite journal|last=|first=|date=1 April 1938.|title=Др. Александар Зега|url=|journal=Политика|volume=|via=
  4. Дучић, В. Др А. Зега (1860—1928)- рукопис.
  5. "Архив Србије, фонд Министарства просвете". III-91. 1887.
  6. "Архив Србије, Министарство просвете". XX-18. 1887.
  7. "Архив Србије, Министарство просвете". IV-29. 1888.
  8. Бојовић, С. (1989). Хемија у Србији у 19. веку. Београд: Научна књига. pp. 62–63.
  9. name=":0">Сарић 1998, p. 179—181
  10. name=":0">Сарић 1998, p. 179—181
  11. name=":1">Сарић 1998, p. 182—183
  12. name=":1">Сарић 1998, p. 182—183
  13. name=":1"
  14. name=":1"
  15. name=":1"
  16. name=":0"

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