The chemical laboratories of the first half of the 19th century
Of the complex of Justus von Liebig’s chemical laboratories in Giessen, transformed since 1920 into one of the most interesting science museums in the world, one is struck by the size, the wealth of instruments and equipment. The museum preserves the Institute of Chemistry almost intact, where Liebig worked as a teacher and scientist from 1825 to 1852. It is a unique structure, which has survived to the present day. In those rooms and laboratories, generations of chemists from all over Europe and even the United States were trained under the guidance of a great teacher. Liebig later also taught in Munich. An important space has been dedicated to him at the Deutsches Museum in this city. His laboratory is reconstructed in real size. But among the many “objects” that fill the space of his workshops, in both museums there are two that the visitor perceives as the most important. One is the apparatus for the analysis of organic substances, the other is the apparatus for distillation. In both there is a detail that makes them original. In the first it is the Kalium-apparat for the absorption of carbon dioxide, in the other it is the counter-current condenser in distillation.
But if the authorship of the Kali-apparat is Liebig, the condenser, which bears his name, is not his invention. His merit is to have made it a routine tool, precious in laboratory analysis.
But who is responsible for the invention of the counter-current condenser?