New kid on the block: the laboratory

More about this object

Electron microscope

In the 19th century, laboratories sprouted like mushrooms throughout Europe.

This development was driven by the fact that the subjects in the natural sciences and medicine were drifting further apart into different specialisms. The presence of separate laboratories for physical and anorganic chemistry, pharmacology, zoology, or botany were seen as essential for conducting science. In the first decade of the 20th century it was not only governments that saw the importance of labs.

Businesses began to invest in their own research. The German firm Siemens opened up a number of research departments, and was seen as an international model. Dutch firms such as Philips and the Nederlandse Gist- en Spiritusfabriek (Dutch Yeast and Spirit Factory) freed researchers from academic tasks such as teaching and lab practicals.

At the heads of such departments were usually academics like Gilles Holst of the Philips Natural Sciences Laboratory (Natlab) who had made their mark in important academic labs. Holst worked to make his ‘industrial’ lab as academic as possible, and an international centre of knowledge exchange where scientists like Albert Einstein came to speak.

Many successful academic scientists also entered the world of business. Besides Justus von Liebig in Giessen and his meat extract empire, the German pharmacologist Ernst Laqueur, based in Amsterdam, together with Dutch meat wholesaler Saal van Zwanenburg founded Organon to produce hormones such as insulin from animal tissues in 1923.

This firm - having been forcibly taken from its Jewish founders by the Nazis in 1940 and restored after the war - blossomed into a world player in the pharmaceutical industry, and now a part of European multi-national corporation AkzoNobel.

How to cite this page

-

Bart Grob, 'New kid on the block: the laboratory', Inventing Europe, http://www.inventingeurope.eu/story/new-kid-on-the-block-the-laboratory

Sources

-
  1. Le Poole, J.B. From meters to microns. Delft: Delft University Press, 1983.

Language

-

This story is available in multiple languages.

English
Dutch

About this tour

-

Tuberculosis in the European Domain

Business, science and disease have flowed over borders for centuries. Starting in the 19th century, the connections between all three began to intensify. While people were increasingly on the move and cities more crowded, new knowledge about the cause of disease and new technologies for controlling it were being developed both at universities and private firms. Follow the long trail of TB through Europe.

Curator

-

What's like this?

Laborotories



Back to top