Alchemy on parchment with inkpot and goose quill
As far back as the early Middle Ages a differentiation in laboratory work took place. The alchemists split up into practitioners and theorists. The theorists among the alchemists distanced themselves increasingly from the chemical trade and from the practicing and producing alchemists. The laboratory as a place of practical work became the study space of the theorist alchemists. This working space was not characterized by retorts, phials and assay porringers anymore. Their working tools were parchment, paper and goose quill.
On transmuters of gold and inventors of porcelain
Opposing to the last section, this section demonstrates the laboratory of gold transmuter alchemists. Besides the mentioned writing utensils, the practicing adept’s laboratory resembled a shrouded in mystery alchemist’s kitchen, arranged in a basement with open fire places, soothed walls and cross-barred windows. This section reminds us that gold transmuters were often held against their will at court and that their assaying kitchen rather resembled a prison.
From phlogiston to oxygen
Until the 19th century the occupation of a chemistry laboratory assistant did not exist. Practitioners in the chemical industry and hobby chemists with various academic careers, mostly physicians, pharmacists, mathematicians, theologians and jurists, conducted their experiments in ill-equipped working spaces. Over time they developed new working appliances and methods, and Experimenting became the hobby of different social classes. The obtained knowledge was published in detail by informative encyclopaedists such as Diderot’s “Encyclopedia, or a systematic dictionary of the sciences, arts, and crafts”, which was published 1762 – 1777 as the first collected edition.
From experiment to economic use
Since the beginning of the 19th century laboratory experiment replaced medieval fire assaying as a “cognitive method of modern science”. The laboratory gained through industrial use a new economic meaning. It is therefore not surprising that Justus Liebig (1803-1873), “the father of modern chemistry”, was not only a researcher but a business man as well. The background of this section shows his laboratory in Munich.
From economic use to experiment
In the course of the increasing division of labour in the chemical production, the plant laboratory gained independence as a part of industrial engineering in the 19th century. Chemical sites became clusters of researching chemists. This section gives insight into the new working environment at the turn of the 20th century: The origin of the chemical laboratory as we know it, with glass tools, including the Bunsen burner and the test tube. A wide sample collection of work appliances dating back to circa 1900 helps the visitor remember the resourcefulness and technical skills of that time.
The changing of the traditional laboratory led to the development of the “thinking laboratory”, which continues to serve as a place for process engineering for experimental chemical laboratory work. Today, the almost deserted research laboratory, designed for formalised process sequences, stands in diametric opposition to the thinking laboratory, in which computers simulating experiments have replaced traditional laboratory equipment. A video demonstrates the monotony of robot work. Visitors can create their own virtual chemical fantasies using a computer.
Mathematical simulation, followed by experimental verification