Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 9.djvu/67

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49
CHARACTER AND WORK OF LIEBIG.

Enough seems to be known, however, to show that this inter-montanic region is not so deficient as has been supposed, either in the number of its species or in representatives of adjoining faunas. The impression that the Central Province is unfavorable to pulmonate growth also seems wrong, except in respect to the scarcity of lime in the soil, to which cause we may probably attribute the fact that the more minute forms are in large majority.

 

CHARACTER AND WORK OF LIEBIG.[1]
By J. L. W. THUDICHUM, M. D.

JUSTUS LIEBIG was born on the 12th of May, 1803, at Darmstadt, in the grand-duchy of Hesse. His father was what in this country (England) we should term a wholesale druggist and dry-salter, a trade which is in Germany designated by the name of materialist. There is no doubt that the opportunities which he had of collecting chemical reagents, and of witnessing the preparation of many products which were the objects of his father's trade, early excited in him that curiosity which soon became an insatiable thirst. It is related on creditable testimony that at the age of fourteen years he had performed all the experiments of which he could get knowledge from books, or for which within his means he could obtain the materials, and it is related by himself that about that time there was not a work in the library of the Grand-duke of Darmstadt on chemistry which he had not read. Looking at his early days by the light of that information, we cannot doubt that the anecdote ordinarily told of his having been a dull boy is a mere mistake. He was abstracted by other pursuits, and there-fore, no doubt, neglected his school-work, but that he should have been less gifted than others cannot, under the circumstances, be believed. It is related by a credible person that in 1817, when he and his school-fellows were speaking to each other as to what pursuit they were to select, he said that he was going to be a chemist, whereupon the other boys laughed at him and told him he was a great fool, for a chemist was nothing. However, times have changed, and what at that time was considered as no pursuit is now an honored profession. In the year 1818 he gave a distinct direction to that early bent of his mind, and he followed almost the only way which at that time existed in Germany for studying chemistry; he became an apprentice in an ordinary apothecary's establishment. An apothecary in Germany is a more scientific person than perhaps many would believe. He has had a thorough training, he has passed examinations, and he represents, therefore, the scientific side of chemistry, pharmacy, and

  1. From the "Cantor Lectures" delivered before the Society of Arts.