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Justus von Liebig

Justus von Liebig
The Chemical Gatekeeper

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Part of Cambridge Science Biographies

  • Date Published: June 2002
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521524735

$ 69.99 (C)

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About the Authors
  • One of the founding fathers of organic chemistry and also a great teacher, Liebig (1803-73) enjoyed a close relationship with Britain, whose scientific education, medical practice and agriculture he transformed. Brock's fresh interpretation of Liebig's stormy career shows how he moved chemistry into the socio-political marketplace, demonstrating chemistry's significance for society in food production, nutrition and public health. Through popular lectures and his readable Chemical Letters, Liebig also commented on issues such as scientific methodology and materialism. This is the first English-language biography of Liebig since 1901.


    • Winner of the Prize for the History of Justus-Liebig-University for the year 2000

    Reviews & endorsements

    "For anyone interested in the shifting boundaries between science, commerce, medicine, manufacturing, and government in the nineteenth century, or in the shifting cultural world of chemists, this book will be of great use. It is an excellent synthesis of recent scholarship, much of it due to Brock himself, and complements well the two-volume biography (in German) by Liebig's student Jacob Volhard." Victorian Studies

    "...Brock portrays a living and breathing human being, and not the usual plaster figure of the hagiographical literature; we see especially a man who is thoroughly engaged in the political and commerical life of his era. No one has hitherto succeeded in depicting so well this multifaceted Liebig, and Brock's success in doing so constitutes a signal triumph of this remarkable and admirable book." The Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences

    "...Brock's work brings to the English-speaking world a long-awaited biography of one of the most important figures in the history of chemistry. In what is perhaps the most significant lesson that emerges from this study, Brock shows how Liebig was a 'public scientist,' recognizing and embracing the civic importance of his science in the modern world." Science

    "Constructing a full biography of a scientist has long presented problems for historians on how to meld the science with the life without ignoring one at the expense of the other, or without making an artifical division between them. Brock has balanced these needs well, creating a picture of Liebig and his influence that can be enthusiastically recommended to chemists and historians alike." Bulletin of the History of Chemistry

    "William Brock has given us a definitive biography...of a very complex person. Demonstrating an exceptional command of primary documents, recent secondary literature, and standard hagiography, Brock has painted a thematically organized portrait that explains the many dimensions of Liebig's life and work. This is a great book. A `must-read' for historians of nineteenth-century science, it will engage and enlighten anyone interested in the role science plays in modern Western civilization. There's nothing fancy: no psychoanalysis, no postmodern deconstruction, no philosophical webs of metascience, no heavy-handed sociological categories. It's just good scholarship and an enjoyable narrative. Brock focuses on a significant historical figure, clearly explains the changes in science and society that surrounded that figure, and interprets those changes in a way that is meaningful for general readers. As a solid and comprehensive biography of Liebig, it will long endure." Isis

    "...carefully selected illustrations and tables provide a good impression of Liebig's times...Brock has written a very sound biography, and he has succeeded in giving a portrait of Liebig's British connections and the effects of his works and performance in Britain. Considering the chapters on farming, food chemistry, and the chemistry of sewage, this book will also be of interest for the historian of technology." Technology and Culture

    "Brock's biography is informative and wide ranging...." Agricultural History

    "...interesing, useful biography." American Historical Review

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    Product details

    • Date Published: June 2002
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521524735
    • length: 396 pages
    • dimensions: 228 x 154 x 24 mm
    • weight: 0.676kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. From pharmacy to chemistry
    2. Organic analysis and the Giessen Research School
    3. Liebig and organic chemistry, 1820–40
    4. Liebig and the British
    5. Liebig and commerce
    6. Liebig and the farmers: agricultural chemistry
    7. Liebig and the doctors: animal chemistry
    8. Liebig on toast: the chemistry of food
    9. Liebig and London: the chemistry of sewage
    10. Populariser of science: chemical letters
    11. Philosopher of science: the Bacon Affair
    12. Death and assessment

  • Author

    William H. Brock, University of Leicester


    • Winner of the Prize for the History of Justus-Liebig-University for the year 2000

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