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History

Chemistry became an independent discipline only progressively. First, the business of doctors then of pharmacists before being carried out by physical chemists and finally chemists.

  • In 1500, the Strasbourg surgeon H. Brunschwig published his first book on distillation. Initially conceived as a means for drug elaboration, this technique played a major role during the 17th century in the chemical preparation of mineral acids. In 1734, in order to obtain the doctorate J.Th.HOEFFEL submitted a report about the oilfield of Pechelbronn. This work contained already an analytical part, but the possible extraction of drugs was still the principal motivation for research. It was only in the second half of the 19th century, that this oil would be used massively as an energy source.
  • The family Spielmann, pharmacists and holders of the drugstore “Du Cerf” in front of the Strasbourg Cathedral during several generations, illustrates the importance of pharmacists for the early development of chemistry as an academic discipline. J.R. Spielmann became professor of chemistry, botanic and medicine in 1759 at the University of Strasbourg. During his father’s lifetime, one of the partners of the family business was the Berlin chemist A.S. Marggraf. In order to refine his education, the grand-son of J.R. invited H.E.MERCK to work with him from 1813 to 1814. Later on in 1827, Merck founded the enterprise for chemical products " E.Merck" in Darmstadt.
  • Demonstrator in experimental physics in Strasbourg, M.EHRMANN saw his essays about the so-called "vital air" published in 1787 together with the experiments of Lavoisier on Oxygen.
  • Between 1848 and 1854, Louis PASTEUR spent 6 years of his life in Strasbourg. He taught chemistry at the Faculty of Sciences as well as at the Faculty of Pharmacy. His duplication method of optically active acids by means of diastereoisomeric salts which they form with cinchona bases is the fruit of this research. His direct successor was Ch. GERHARDT who had worked before in Montpellier and Paris. Skilful experimenter and fervent defender of the new chemical notations, he unfortunately died from a peritonitis in 1856 after having reached barely the age of 40.
  • After the annexation of Alsace to the German Empire in 1871, the chemistry in Strasbourg developed for almost 50 years within the German University of the Wilhelmian Empire. This University carried out an ambitious programme to build a modern university in Strasbourg. The Institute of Chemistry, situated then in the 'Rue Goethe', was erected in this context at the end of the year 1882. Just after 1871, instruction in chemistry was provided by A. BAEYER and his student E. FISCHER, later on a permanent basis by R.FITTIG and finally by J.THIELE.
  • After the reintegration of the Alsace into France in 1919, P. Th. Muller and H. Gault endowed the institution with the new mission of training chemical engineers. The later was also the founder of the “School of Petroleum”.
  • The Second World War forced the retreat of the French University to Clermont-Ferrand between 1939 and 1945 and caused in Strasbourg a harsh period of occupation. After the liberation, the Institute of Chemistry restarted its activities and impelled by H. FORESTIER, it soon was qualified as National Graduate School for Chemistry of Strasbourg (Ecole Nationale Supérieure de Chimie de Strasbourg) as for the instruction of chemical engineers.
  • The faculty building in the ‘Rue Goethe’ became too small after the recent development and was abandoned in 1964-65 by the chemists who all moved into new constructions on the ‘Esplanade’-Campus. After the training at the E.N.S.C.S. had become restructured and trilingual, the school gained the status and denomination of an European School of Graduate Studies for Chemistry of Strasbourg (Ecole Européenne des Hautes Etudes des Industries Chimiques de Strasbourg). Meanwhile, the high level of chemical research in Strasbourg was confirmed magnificently by the awarding of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry to J. M. Lehn in 1987.

(If this sketch of the history of chemistry in Strasbourg arouses the interest of the reader in the wider development, please refer to "Les Sciences en Alsace 1538-1988" Ed. OBERLIN 1989, p. 99-132.)

The Faculty of Chemistry in its actual outlay was created in 1989. Its first director was the Professor  Claude BENEZRA.