Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 80.djvu/554

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

was established and somewhat later Davy's use of the electric current in the study of the alkaline earths.

In a word, activity in chemistry was evident everywhere, and theory and methods were being rapidly developed, but nowhere was chemistry a part of university study. Berzelius, Gay-Lussac and others had organized laboratories for the training of chemists, but it remained for the University of Giessen to establish the first chemical laboratory under the control of a university. Here, Liebig in 1836, when only 21 years of age, opened his laboratory and began his labors in organic chemistry.

The event is of importance, not only for chemistry, bnt for medical research in general, for the admission of chemistry to the university was the first step towards the overthrow of the "natur-philosopher" and hence to the development of that modern science which has made German universities so justly famous. It is also important from another point of view; in France science had been the work of the academicians, in England of workers in private laboratories or in those supported by commercial companies; by the new departure at Giessen, the precedent for university laboratories was established, and the world has since followed Germany's lead.

This laboratory of Liebig at Giessen was a success immediately and became the training school for most of the eminent chemists outside of Paris. The training offered at Giessen was systematic and methodical in qualitative, quantitative and organic analysis. In his autobiography, Liebig speaks of the difficulty "as the numbers increased, of the practical teaching itself" but "a progressive way of working" was thought out and tried, I can not refrain from quoting his own words concerning the development of the work in organic chemistry.

The first years of my residence at Giessen were almost exclusively devoted to the improvement of organic analysis, and with the first successes there began at the small university an activity such as the world had not yet seen. . . . Every one was obliged to find his own way for himself. . . . We worked from dawn to the fall of night, there were no recreations and pleasures at Giessen. The only complaints were those of the attendant, who in the evenings, when he had to clean, could not get the workers to leave the laboratory.

In another place he says:

I have found among all who frequent this laboratory (Giessen) for technical purposes a prominent inclination to occupy themselves with applied chemistry. They usually follow hesitatingly and with some suspicion my advice to leave alone all this time-absorbing drudgery, and simply to become acquainted with the necessary ways and means of solving purely scientific questions.

Such were the habits, the methods of work and the ideals of the man who in four years established that simple and accurate method of organic analysis known by his name. From his labors and those of Wohler, who in 1828 announced the first synthesis of an organic sub-