Thursday, December 20, 2007

Champagne chemistry

The previous post about was about Wine Chemistry. One discipline in this area is Champagne Chemistry

A while ago Industrial and Engineering Chemistry published a wine special (Vol. 27, No. 11: November 1935).

One article fits very well in those days around Christmas and new year.

Manufacture of Champagne and Sparkling Burgundy
F. M. Champlin, H. E. Goresline, D. K. Tressler
Ind. Eng. Chem.; 1935; 27(11); 1240-1243.

It is a nice article to read and it has some bad quality but nice pictures.

Here is another nice article for Christmas time:

Enjoy... Happy X-mas and a happy etc. etc. etc.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Bottle of wine, fruit of the vine

Do you like wine?

An alarming title of a paper by Harry Drake Gibbs (1872 – 1934). This is the guy from gibbs reagent (2,6-dichloroquinonechloroimide for a phenol test, Chem. Rev. 1927, 3, 291)
The arsenic in the wine came from arsenic-containing pesticides, clarifying agents, aniline-dyes and agents to clean the wine casks.

You may think: ‘I don’t care I prefer beer.’ Well don’t feel safe.

The Manchester 1900 arsenic brewage resulted in 6000 poisonings and 70 deaths. The arsenic came from glucose, so the beer did not comply with the Reinheitsgebot.

Invert sugar (hydrolyzed sucrose) can be added while brewing beer to speed up the fermentation. Invert sugar can be made by cooking normal sugar in the presence of an acid (resulting in fructose and glucose). The 1900 brewer used invert suger prepared by by this method using sulfuric acid. The sulfuric acid was made from sulfur obtained by combution of sulfur containing ore (pyrite). Unfortunately this ore contained quite some arsenic. The sulfuric acid was polluted with this arsenic and in the end there was the arsenicated beer.

This type of beer is still not very popular, most homebrewers prefer decent stuff.

Arsenicated wine is not rare. It has been said that Napoleon died from arsenic poisoning on Saint Helena in 1821.

If this is true it does not mean that someone poisoned him deliberately. Maybe he just drank the wrong stuff.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Mother's milk chemistry

There is this very nice paper by Prof. Albert Ripley Leeds (prof of chemistry at the Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, N.J. who died of gastric cancer in 1902)

He analyzed the ingredients of mother’s milk and relates that to age, nationality, hair color etc.

The style of writing is awesome.

Prof. Albert screwed things up, writes it down and publishes it. That’s something you don’t see a lot nowadays.

Apart from analyses Prof. Albert describes physical properties.

When you study mother’s milk you have to describe this property.

Can you imagine a German brunette giving a chemistry professor (probably with beard) a breast?

Maybe Prof. Albert preferred being nursed by someone else:

Here are some other details of the Polish lady.

Too bad, no exact measurements of her breasts.

Maybe Prof. Albert preferred a younger lady.

This amazing 19th century paper clearly shows how careful they were back then with collecting their data.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Top 5 inappropriate behaviour chemists

1) Samuel Edwin Ashby
Pharmaceutical chemist Ashby was found guilty by the Statutory Committee of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain for misconduct on 25 October 2006. His name was removed from the register of pharmaceutical chemists. Ashby made a lovely record of inappropriate behaviour at 5 pharmacies. Supplying the wrong medicine to patients, taking oxazepam and other drugs for his own use, calling female colleagues and customers arrogant cows or stupid bitches, telling the manager to shut up and piss off, physically assault staff members with iron bars, using offensive language and ignore the code of ethics.

2) Paracelsus
The alchemist and physician wandered from town to town through Europe in the 16th century. Quarreling with everybody everywhere he came, and carefully preserve his reputation as an arrogant person. He could often be found on the streets showing off with his knowledge while being drunk and wearing the same clothes for several months. His disciple Oporinus wrote that Paracelsus was an irreverent, a glutton, and a drunk.

3) Joyce Gilchrist

Forensic chemist Gilchrist falsified evidence for 15 years in many cases. On the basis of her testimonies several people were sentenced to death and 12 have already been executed. Not very kind of her.

4) Colleen Brubaker

Police chemist Brubaker stole drugs from the Philadelphia Police Department in order to satisfy her addiction. Several drug dealers walked back out on the street because the evidence was gone. It's hard to deny an addiction when such a photograph exists.

5) James Watson
Nobel prize winner and world champion in the art of saying stupid things.

Monday, November 26, 2007

The rise and fall of rimonabant

The rise and fall of SR141716A/rimonabant/Acomplia/Zimulti



Friday, November 16, 2007

Angewandte's graphical abstracts

It’s always nice to go through the graphical abstracts of Angewandte. A lot of colorful things that try to catch your eye.

A little bit of humor is often present

The latest issue contains a graphical abstract with pictures of a lovely way to recover a catalyst.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


1 year old, 139 posts, 50K+ visitors, top 5 lists, beards and dead chemists....Hooray!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Beard chemistry

Shulgin is a bearded chemist. It might be wise for him to shave it off. His beard contains evidence for the narcotic brigade. See here:

Occult chemistry is nice but beard chemistry is awesome. It is a privilege to perform such analyses.

Very nice that they explicitly pay attention to hygiene.

Unfortunately they failed to mention the brand of the shaver in the 'Apparatus' section.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Crick to Watson

Albert has his own 'What they said' about this here.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Nobel beards

It has been said several times on this blog how important a beard can be for a chemist.

Ψ*Ψ even suggested to include the tag beard on this blog. (Great idea!)

Anyway... The Nobel laureates in the 5 traditional disciplines of 2007 are known. I am quite dissapointed. Let's compare this year to the first Nobel Prize year.


Wilhelm C. Röntgen (Physics), Emil A. von Behring (Physiology or Medicine), Rene F. A. Sully Prudhomme (Literature)
Jean H. Dunant and Frédéric Passy (Peace), Jacobus H. van't Hoff (Chemistry)

5 bearded laureates, 1 not bearded

A bummer that the beardless guy is a chemist, but 5 out of 6 is a good score.


Albert Fert and Peter Grünberg (Physics), Mario R. Capecchi, Sir Martin J. Evans and Oliver Smithies (Physiology or Medicine)
Doris Lessing (Literature), IPCC and Al Gore (Peace), Gerhard Ertl (Chemistry)

No beard at all!

How about the chemistry laureates? How bearded were they in history. (I mean that they must have a beard on the portrait on the official website.)

1901 was not very good but in 1902 there was Emil Fisher to show the world how it should be done.

A beard and a pince-nez!

A great shock when you count the amount of bearded chemistry Nobel laureates over the years.

149 laureates and only 13 were bearded (a lousy 8.7%).

1901-1925 : 9 bearded laureates. In 1995 Mario J. Molina was the first bearded laureate in 70 years.

There were 3 beards after Molina. The last hero was (sure) 'The Man' in 2005. Okay, not an imressive beard, but any visible facial hair on the chin is sufficient.

Let's hope that next year there is a prize for someone like Stoddart or Seeman.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Thomson and Anderson

Couldn't resist posting this...

I posted that picture of the old lab and a picture of the guy who set up that lab; Prof. Thomas Thomson. The picture was taken around 1864. Thomson died in 1852 and was succeeded by Thomas Anderson.

How about this beard? Quite impressive I'd say.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Old labs

Old photos of chemistry labs are awesome.

A lot of bottles and men working in suit without safety glasses.

University of California 1888

Crowded labs with wooden benches and no ventilation at all.

Kansas State Agricultural College (1899)

Even labs crowded with women.

1915 Oregon Agricultural College

Or just an old shed with the smell of dung still in it, but a perfect place to discover Radium.

This made me wonder; What is the oldest photo of a chemistry lab? This is the oldest I could find.

Glasgow University ca. 1864

The laboratory was set up by the legendary Thomas Thomson.

In 1811 Thomson set up one of the first chemistry labs in Brittain in Edinburgh. This lab in Glasgow was set up in 1831. This lab seems to be the safest. If you are just sitting there doing nothing, what can go wrong?

Friday, September 28, 2007

Honored by google

It is very nice that people find us in this way; we feel very honored.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The piano chemist

So, who is this forgotten musician chemist?

As far as I know he was not able to play an instrument very well and was not singing opera in the evening. It is the man who is the probably only chemist who has a named musical instument.

Behold the Bechstein-Siemens-Nernst grand piano!

This piano was named after these guys

Carl Bechstein (with a moustache growing out of his nose), Werner von Siemens (nice 'only on the cheeks moustache') and the chemist Walther Nernst (with his perpetual pince-nez)

The Bechstein-Siemens-Nernst grand piano (or neo-Bechstein piano) was one of the first electric pianos. Invented by Nernst with the help of the Bechstein company for the piano and the Siemens company for elecrical parts.

The strings vibrate in a magnetic field which produces an electric current in the coil around the magnet.

A radio amplifier is used to produce an electronically modified sound which comes out of the speaker of a connected phonograph. The piano sounded like an electric guitar.

Nernst started to build single string models in the lab.

In 1930 Bechstein introduced the piano on the market and Nernst could fidget with the real thing.

It was not a big succes, but a named musical instrument is more unique than a named fractioning column or a named condensor.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Musician and painter chemist

A lot of comments on Top 5 lists say :"Hey you forgot ...". Most of the time we did not forget that chemist but a disadvantage of a Top 5 list is that there can only be 5 chemists on a Top 5 list. (Sometimes we did forget someone who really should be on it ofcourse).

The next post will be about someone who should have been on the Top 5 musician chemists.

I hope to post it soon but the other author unavailable right now and I'm quite busy.

I can tell you this. It is not about an amature musician chemist.

Johannes Nicolaus Brønsted singing with his barytone voice (and could play the piano) and his wife playing the piano, performing at home.

Brønsted was a painter as well.