Synopses & Reviews
White coats, Bunsen burners, beakers, flasks, and pipettesand#151;the furnishings of the chemistry laboratory are familiar to most of us from our school days, but just how did these items come to be the crucial tools of science? Examining the history of the laboratory, Peter J. T. Morris offers a unique way to look at the history of chemistry itself, showing how the development of the laboratory helped shape modern chemistry.
Chemists, Morris shows, are one of the leading drivers of innovation in laboratory design and technology. He tells of fascinating lineages of invention and innovation, for instance, how the introduction of coal gas into Robert Wilhelm Bunsenand#8217;s laboratory led to the eponymous burner, which in turn led to the development of atomic spectroscopy. Comparing laboratories across eras, from the furnace-centered labs that survived until the late eighteenth century to the cleanrooms of today, he shows how the overlooked aspects of scienceand#151;the architectural design and innovative tools that have facilitated its practiceand#151;have had a profound impact on what science has been able to do and, ultimately, what we have been able to understand. and#160;
andldquo;This lavishly illustrated portrait of the chemistandrsquo;s workplace provides a vividly written account of the evolution of the contemporary electronic-based laboratory from the workshops of early-modern metallurgists, alchemists, and pharmacists. Using key features such as furnaces, benches, cupboards, bottle racks, and fume cupboards, as well as gas, electricity, and water supplies, Morris shows how the changing character of chemical teaching and research influenced the building and fittings of laboratories in universities, industrial works, and official government laboratories. Text and illustrations combine to make a fresh and exciting way of looking at the history of chemistryandmdash;the science that makes our world.andrdquo;
andldquo;In recent years, much attention has been devoted to the protagonists of the history of chemistry, but the evolution of their workplace, the chemical laboratory, has remained until now almost completely unexplored territory. Morris sets things right in this lively and well-documented history. The book is not only an intellectual but also a visual feast, packed as it is with an extraordinary number of striking illustrationsandmdash;many of them new even to the specialistandrsquo;s eye.andrdquo;
andldquo;A revealing, illustrated tour of chemical laboratories, real ones, filled with real men and women, working especially in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and beyond to today. A fascinating history, as well as a highly enjoyable read.andrdquo;
andldquo;Chemistry was probably the first of the sciences to get a room of its own, and in The Matter Factory, Morris offers the first book-length treatment of how this happened and what has changed in labs over the years. . . . The Matter Factory is the story of the years (and centuries) when chemistry was finding out what it could do. It covers a lot of ground and brings together many old drawings, plans, and photographs that are otherwise scattered through a bewildering literature trail. It should remain the definitive history of the chemistry lab for many years.andrdquo;
andldquo;Surprisingly, there has been no comprehensive history of the chemistry laboratory, an omission put right in The Matter Factory by the distinguished historian, Morris. . . . The Matter Factory succeeds in describing the evolution of the chemistry laboratory. It is highly readable and well-illustrated, including numerous references. As such, it should be widely read by all who have had the privilege of studying and working in a chemistry laboratory.andrdquo;
andldquo;Book of the Week. . . . Hugely enjoyable and insightful.andrdquo;andnbsp;
andldquo;The Matter Factory is not a history of chemistry, of which there are plenty, but rather a history of the chemistry laboratory, of which there is none. . . . Having himself worked in the pharmaceutical industry and subsequently become a historian of chemistry, Morris is well placed to fill this gap, basing his account on an extensive search for, and analysis of, published illustrations and photographs of laboratories. His book is therefore copiously illustrated with images of both chemistry laboratoriesandmdash;in universities, industry, and governmentandmdash;and portraits of the inorganic and organic chemists who worked in them. . . . Morris has unearthed a rich array of laboratory images. . . . The level of detail in the book is valuable.andrdquo;
andldquo;Arguing that changes in laboratory design were critical to enabling the progress of chemistry, Morris explores the origins and evolution of the chemistry laboratory, from medieval alchemy dens through todayandrsquo;s state-of-the-art facilities. Rich in detail and featuring an array of engravings, illustrations, and photographs, The Matter Factory is an unusual and engaging history.andrdquo;andnbsp;
From white coats to Bunsen burners, the laboratory is a controlled space of experimentation, research, and invention. But how have the desired functions of the laboratory influenced the way that the laboratory was constructed, laid out, equipped, and operated? And how have developments in chemical practice or theory changed the laboratory and the way it is used? By examining the history of the laboratory this book offers a novel approach to the history of chemistry, which shows how the development of the laboratory also helped to shape modern chemistry.
By acting as consumers of leading-edge technology, chemists have driven innovation in laboratory design and the provision of utilities and equipment. For example, the introduction of coal gas into Bunsenand#8217;s laboratory led to the development of the Bunsen burner, which in turn allowed the development of atomic spectroscopy. Is the construction of new laboratoriesand#8212;and the provision of new utilities and equipmentand#8212;an important element in the development of these novel areas of chemistry? Peter J. T. Morris tackles these questions by looking at a series of shifts in laboratory design: from furnace-centered examples that survived until the late eighteenth century, to the classical laboratory created in Germany (and London) in the mid-nineteenth century, to the rise of industrial research laboratory in the late nineteenth century, and finally the creation of the modern laboratory at the end of the twentieth.
About the Author
Peter J. T. Morris
is Keeper of Research Projects at the Science Museum, London and an Honorary Research Associate in the Science and Technology Studies Department at University College in London. He is the editor of Science for the Nation: Perspectives on the History of the Science Museum.
Table of Contents
Birth of the Laboratory: Wolfgang von Hohenlohe and Weikersheim, 1590s
Form and Function: Antoine Lavoisier and Paris, 1780s
Laboratory versus Lecture Hall: Michael Faraday and London, 1820s
Training Chemists: Justus Liebig and Giessen, 1840s
Modern Conveniences: Robert Bunsen and Heidelberg, 1850s
The Chemical Palace: Wilhelm Hofmann and Berlin, 1860s
Laboratory Transfer: Henry Roscoe and Manchester, 1870s
Chemical Museums: Charles Chandler and New York, 1890s
Cradles of Innovation: Carl Duisberg and Elberfeld, 1890s
Neither Fish nor Fowl: Thomas Thorpe and London, 1890s
Chemistry in Silicon Valley: Bill Johnson and Stanford, 1960s
Innovation on the Isis: Graham Richards and Oxford, 2000s