2011 was the International year of chemistry. And for this occasion we reconstructed the „Liebig Table,“ and with it, paid tribute to the leading chemist of the 19th-century: Justus von Liebig. For him the main purpose of chemistry was to improve people’s lives. This is how he came to discover, among other things, the stock cube, better known here as „Liebig’s meat extract.“ He also discovered baking powder, and mineral fertiliser. Liebig introduced the epoch-making glass Kaliapparat to chemistry that is used to analyse carbon and hydrogen in plants.
Our exhibit, the gasogene is less well known. This piece of apparatus was invented by a Herr Briet to create carbonated water using sodium bicarbonate and tartaric acid, which Liebig recommended for everyday use in the household.
The brown basketwork around the gasogene is interesting. Justus von Liebig added this as a protective layer because he thought that the bubbling carbon gases could cause the glass to shatter. At the time simple chalk soda glass, which shattered very easily, was used in chemistry. This wasn’t changed until Otto Schott invented temperature-change resistant glass in around 1890, known as borosilicate glass, or Duranglass, or as Pyrex in England and the USA.
When Liebig could no longer meet the needs for glass apparatus on his own, he inspired the Thuringian glassblowers to produce laboratory glass instead of porcelain figures. And up until the Second World War the Thuringian glassblowers were leaders in the laboratory industry. After the war in around 1948, many of them settled in Wertheim and laid the foundation stone for the Wertheim specialist glass industry that still exists today. The others went to Mainz and re-established the Schott Factory.