Blending Technical Innovation and Learned Natural Knowledge: The Making of Ethers

Ursula Klein

in Materials and Expertise in Early Modern Europe

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print April 2010 | ISBN: 9780226439686
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226439709 | DOI:
Blending Technical Innovation and Learned Natural Knowledge: The Making of Ethers

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In the eighteenth century, apothecaries manufactured hundreds of remedies by means of chemical techniques such as distillation, dissolution, and extraction with solvents. These so-called chemical remedies were prepared in the laboratory as volatile ethers, distilled acids, composite elixirs, ardent spirits, sublimated essences, precipitated salts, extracted vegetable and animal oils, and other material substances. Aside from material substances, chemists of the eighteenth century used other items employed by eighteenth-century apothecaries shared, including laboratories, instruments, and techniques of production and experimentation. This article investigates the production of ethers during the late eighteenth century, focusing on practices in Germany. The apothecaries' search for unambiguous ways of identifying ethers was part of attempts to standardize medicines and avoid adulteration and to write experimental histories of material substances. They combined technical innovation with learned natural knowledge to make ethers.

Keywords: chemical remedies; apothecaries; chemists; ethers; natural knowledge; Germany; technical innovation; adulteration; medicines; material substances

Chapter.  12693 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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