Enlightened Milk: Reshaping a Bodily Substance into a Chemical Object

Barbara Orland

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:
Enlightened Milk: Reshaping a Bodily Substance into a Chemical Object

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Milk was a popular subject of research among chemists in Europe during the late eighteenth century. In 1785 and 1787, the Royal Medical Society of Edinburgh in Scotland and the Royal Society of Medicine in Paris commissioned studies to assess the physiological and chemical qualities of the milk produced by humans and animals such as cows, goats, camels, sheep, and donkeys. Samuel Ferris, Antoine-Augustin Parmentier, and Nicolas Déyeux were chosen to conduct the investigations. This article examines the production of milk during the late eighteenth century, focusing on how chemists attempted to transform milk into a chemically defined object. Experiments conducted by chemists such as Parmentier, Déyeux, and Ferris stimulated new questions about organic materials and new insights into the technique of organic-chemical analysis. These experts thus contributed to both animal chemistry and the then thriving field of analytical chemistry.

Keywords: milk; Samuel Ferris; Antoine-Augustin Parmentier; Nicolas Déyeux; chemists; organic materials; organic-chemical analysis; animal chemistry; analytical chemistry; experiments

Chapter.  15306 words. 

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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