Justus von Liebig


Justus von Liebig : biography

df=y December 5 – 18 April 1873

He was also one of the first chemists to organize a laboratory in its present form. His novel method of organic analysis enabled him to direct the analytical work of many graduate students. The vapor condensation device he popularized for his research is still named a Liebig condenser, although it was in common use long before Liebig’s research began. Liebig’s students were from many of the German states as well as Britain and the United States, and they helped create an international reputation for their Doktorvater.

In 1835 he invented a process for silvering that greatly improved the utility of mirrors and in 1850 he investigated spontaneous human combustion, dismissing the simplistic explanations based on ethanol due to alcoholism.

Liebig’s work on applying chemistry to plant and animal physiology was especially influential. At a time when many chemists such as Jöns Jakob Berzelius insisted on a hard and fast separation between the organic and inorganic, Liebig argued that

Liebig’s arguments against any chemical distinction between living (physiological) and dead chemical processes proved a great inspiration to several of his students and others who were interested in materialism. Though Liebig distanced himself from the direct political implications of materialism, he tacitly supported the work of Karl Vogt (1817–1895), Jacob Moleschott (1822–1893), and Ludwig Buechner (1824–1899).

German stamp picturing Justus von Liebig, 1953 Liebig played a more direct role in reforming politics in the German states through his promotion of science-based agriculture and the publication of John Stuart Mill’s Logic. Through Liebig’s close friendship with the Vieweg family publishing house, he arranged for his former student Jacob Schiel (1813–1889) to translate Mill’s important work for German publication. Liebig liked Mill’s Logic in part because it promoted science as a means to social and political progress, but also because Mill featured several examples of Liebig’s research as an ideal for the scientific method. Liebig is also credited with the notion that "searing meat seals in the juices." Page 161, "The Searing Question". This idea, still widely believed, is not true.

Working with Belgian engineer George Giebert, Liebig devised an efficient method of producing beef extract from carcasses. In 1865, they founded the Liebig Extract of Meat Company, marketing the extract as a cheap, nutritious alternative to real meat. Some years after Liebig’s death, in 1899, the product was trademarked "Oxo".

Liebig is also credited with the invention of Marmite because of his discovery that yeast could be concentrated.

After World War II, the University of Giessen was officially renamed after him, "Justus-Liebig-Universität Giessen". In 1953 the West German post office issued a stamp in his honor.Germany #695, Scott catalogue