Chemistry in the 18th and 19th Centuries

November 7, 2004 by  

Chemistry was first introduced as an academic discipline in medical faculties, academies, botanical gardens, and museums in the late 17th century. Over the next 100 years, it became an established part of the European intellectual world. Eighteenth-century chemists were teachers and professors, authors of learned books and experimental essays, members of academies and scholarly societies, and frequent visitors to coffee shops and salons. Yet, they differed markedly from other savants of the time. They were passionate experimenters who spent many hours in their laboratories. Furthermore, they were learned practitioners: apothecaries, metallurgical officials, consultants, inspectors of manufactures, entrepreneurs, and members of state committees and technological boards

The connection between chemistry and pharmacy went back to medieval times. The distillation vessels used in 18th-century apothecaries’ laboratories originated in the late medieval alchemical tradition. Chemical operations such as distillations and extractions with solvents were also not invented in apothecary guilds but learned from 15th-century alchemists. Pharmacopoeias and other apothecary books of the 18th century included recipes for hundreds of chemical medicines originally introduced by the Paracelsian medical-chemical movement. Inversely, almost all 18th-century chemical textbooks presented numerous recipes for the fabrication of medicines and described their properties and medical virtues.

The chemist-apothecary was a widely respected persona throughout 18th-century Europe. Andreas Sigismund Marggraf (1709-1782), for example, had completed an apothecary apprenticeship and, between 1735 and 1753, administered his father’s apothecary shop in Berlin. He later became famous for his chemical experiments and publications, as well as for his directorship of the Berlin Academy’s physics class. Marggraf had also learned assaying with Johann Friedrich Henckel (1678-1744) in Freiberg, done the first experiments for the extraction of sugar from beets, and was an ambitious naturalist who owned a large mineral collection. Many 18th-century chemist-physicians also produced and sold their own chemical remedies (3).

Complete article:

Sources an references:

  1. K. Hufbauer, The Formation of the German Chemical Community (1720-1795) (Univ. of California Press, Berkeley, 1982).
  2. C. C. Gillispie, Science and Polity in France at the End of the Old Regime (Princeton Univ. Press, Princeton, NJ, 1980).
  3. W. Schneider, Geschichte der pharmazeutischen Chemie (Verlag Chemie, Weinheim, 1972).
  4. T. M. Porter, Ann. Sci. 38, 543 (1981).
  5. A. Nieto-Galan, Colouring Textiles: A History of Natural Dyestuffs in Industrial Europe, vol. 217 of Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science (Kluwer, Boston, 2001).
  6. U. Klein, Experiments, Models, Paper Tools: Cultures of Organic Chemistry in the Nineteenth Century. T. Lenoir, H. U. Gumbrecht, Eds. (Stanford Univ. Press, Stanford, CA, 2003).
  7. D. J. Diderot, J. LeRond d’Alembert, Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire Raisonné des Sciences, des Arts, et des Métiers, Facsimile reprint of the 1st ed. of 1751-1780 (Frommann, Stuttgart, 1966), 35 vols.



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