Sodium hydroxide was first prepared by soap makers. : p45 A procedure for making sodium hydroxide appeared as part of a recipe for making soap in an Arab book of the late 13th century: Al-mukhtara' fi funun min al-suna' (Inventions from the Various Industrial Arts), which was compiled by al-Muzaffar Yusuf ibn 'Umar ibn 'Ali ibn Rasul (d. 1295), a king of Yemen. The recipe called for passing water repeatedly through a mixture of alkali (Arabic: al-qily, where qily is ash from saltwort plants, which are rich in sodium; hence alkali was impure sodium carbonate) and quicklime (calcium oxide, CaO), whereby a solution of sodium hydroxide was obtained. European soap makers also followed this recipe. When in 1791 the French chemist and surgeon Nicolas Leblanc (1742–1806) patented a process for mass-producing sodium carbonate, natural "soda ash" (impure sodium carbonate that was obtained from the ashes of plants that are rich in sodium) : p36 was replaced by this artificial version. : p46 However, by the 20th century, the electrolysis of sodium chloride had become the primary method for producing sodium hydroxide.
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