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11— Leipzig
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The Kingdom of Saxony and Its University

At the time Kolbe was called to the University of Leipzig, Saxony was a prosperous kingdom of 2.4 million inhabitants. Of all the German states, it had by far the highest population density and had industrialized the earliest. Exactly half the population was engaged in industrial occupations of various kinds (compared to forty-one percent in the Rhineland, its nearest competitor, and seventeen percent in Prussia), especially in textiles, coal, iron, nonferrous mining, and heavy machinery.[1] Nowhere else in the German Confederation could be found such a concentration of industrialized cities as the likes of Leipzig, Dresden, Chemnitz, and Zwickau.

The country had come a long way during the previous two generations. At the beginning of the century, Saxony had been the last German state to turn against Napoleon, a policy that cost a good deal of its territory at the Congress of Vienna. As happened in many of the other German states during the Vormärz, the insurrections of 1830 ended a particularly reactionary period and resulted in a liberalized constitution the following year, along with emancipation of the serfs. The ensuing decades saw agricultural reforms and a gradual liberalization of the state, punctuated by the revolution of 1848-1849.

Economically, Saxony greatly benefited from entry in 1834 into the Prussian customs unions, tightly interconnected as she was with the surrounding much larger state of Prussia. Guided by the economic out-


look of Friedrich List, the Saxon state built the first railroad line in Germany, between Dresden, Leipzig, and Magdeburg (1837-1840).[2] Thereafter, Saxony developed its railroad system more aggressively than any other German state, and this assisted the accelerating process of industrialization. King Johann (reigned 1854-1873), a Dante scholar and the most learned of all the nineteenth-century German princes, guided his country toward further liberalization and economic modernization, a process that continued to be encouraged by his successor, Albert. Johann's prime minister tilted increasingly toward Austria, and Saxony was its ally in the Austro-Prussian war. After Königgrätz, Prussia compelled Saxony to join the North German Confederation, but without engendering any significant anti-Prussian sentiment. The kingdom became a pliant member state of the German Empire in 1871.

A leading role in interior affairs was taken by Paul yon Falkenstein (1801-1882), a member of an old aristocratic family.[3] As minister in charge of the Leipzig district during the late 1830s, it was Falkenstein who championed the first railroad. About the same time, he also succeeded in having the eminent legal scholar Wilhelm Albrecht called to the university, despite his sovereign's disapproval of this member of the "radical" Göttingen Seven group. For two decades following 1851, Falkenstein as Minister of Culture worked with remarkable effectiveness to raise the status of the University of Leipzig from a provincial to a nationally and even internationally respected institution.

Since its founding in the year 1409, the University of Leipzig had been one of the premier universities of Germany—the largest of them all during most of the seventeenth century, enrolling as many as sixteen percent of all German students.[4] However, during the Vormärz Leipzig was overtaken not only by the urban institutions at Berlin, Breslau, and Munich but also by Bonn as Well. When Falkenstein became director of the Saxon ministry of culture ("Königliches Ministerium des Cultus und öffentlichen Unterrichts"), Leipzig University had reached its nadir, an enrollment of only 800 or about seven percent of German students (still far larger than the universities of most Klein-staaten such as Kurhessen). Falkenstein's efforts produced an improvement in the university's fortunes that can only be described as spectacular. In 1865 there were a thousand students; six years later two thousand were enrolled, and by 1873 almost three thousand. During the mid- and late 1870s, Leipzig had half again as many students as its closest rival, Berlin, and one of every six German university students was enrolled there. Although the boom leveled off in the 1880s, the university maintained and even slowly increased its absolute numbers thereafter.

The two areas where Falkenstein's efforts bore the most dramatic


fruit were in the percentage of foreign students (in both senses of the term "foreign," non-Saxon Germans and non-Germans), and in the number of science students. As far as the first category is concerned, for generations the university had maintained a ratio of about three-fourths Saxon and one-fourth non-Saxon German students. In contrast, during the 1870s well over half the Leipzig students came from outside the kingdom and one in seven came from outside the member states of the empire. Foreigners included especially Austrians, Russians, Swiss, Americans, and Britons; French students were notably absent.

As for science students, although in the early 1860s an average of about 50 per year matriculated, the number had jumped to over 200 by the early 1870s and to about 300 per year in the late 1870s. Regarding the intersection set of our two categories, the average number of non-Saxon science matriculations was only 18 per year in the early 1860s. This had mushroomed a decade later to 150 and by the late 1870s to over 200 per year. In this latter period, more than two-thirds of the science students came from outside Saxony.

Clearly the university had dramatically increased its attractiveness both inside and outside Germany. Part of this story has to do with the general expansion of German university enrollment. After decades of stagnation, the universities slowly began to expand in the 1860s, then exploded after the founding of the Reich. In the fifteen years after 1872, the empire's student population more than doubled.[5] However, Leipzig's boom began even before this national trend and exceeded it in magnitude.

Some of the attraction of Leipzig was undoubtedly due to local factors: the presence there of the Imperial Court of Justice; its reputation as a large, vital, and attractive city; and industrial and geographic factors as well. However, Leipzig could not compare with Berlin for political importance or with Munich for general ambience. A large part of this great success must therefore be ascribed to the work of the Saxon ministry of culture, with the cooperation of the sovereign and his legislature (the Ständesversammlung).

In the late 1850s, Falkenstein began self-consciously to dramatically expand the Leipzig science facilities. His first move was to locate a new observatory on a small hillock on the southeast edge of town, some distance from the main university district in the heart of the city. The hillock adjoined the so-called "Johannisthal," a city-owned garden district where townspeople could (and still do) rent small plots and summer houses. The university, one of the wealthiest in Germany, owned a good deal of rental property in and around Leipzig and was able to trade with the city for the real estate in this yet undeveloped district


(there stood on the district's main Waisenhausstrasse only an institute for the deaf and the city orphanage).[6]

The observatory, outfitted by 1862, was only the first step in Falkenstein's elaborate and ambitious scheme; it formed the nucleus for what would be an extensive academic science and medical district. By locating the new campus in the suburbs, Falkenstein's architects could plan properly for optimal use of light and fresh air, and the buildings could be designed from the ground up with their dedicated end uses in mind. Moreover, the land was cheap and the streets were quiet, with none of the rumbling traffic that often interfered with precision measurements in the old laboratories on Universitätsstrasse.

Falkenstein's next opportunity came with the death of the professor of theoretical and pharmaceutical chemistry in the medical faculty, Otto B. Kühn (1800-1863). Kühn, a chemically inclined physician and the son of a professor of anatomy at Leipzig, had habilitated the same year (1825) as a fellow Saxon of about the same age named Otto Linné Erdmann (1804-1869). When in 1830 the professor of chemistry in the Medical Faculty, C. G. Eschenbach, retired, the faculty was not able to decide between the two young chemists. They compromised by awarding Eschenbach's lab and nominal successorship to Erdmann with the field of technical chemistry, now transferred to the Philosophical Faculty. Kühn got the position of general and theoretical chemistry in the Medical Faculty, initially without facilities. In 1842 Kühn inherited Erdmann's lab in the Pleissenburg on Universitätsstrasse, when Erdmann traded up for a new and superior facility in the Friedericianum, a couple hundred yards south of the main university buildings. Each of the two new ordentlicher professors was appointed at the paltry salary of 200 thalers.[7]

Neither of the Medical Faculty chemists, Eschenbach or Kühn, was ever able to achieve any real reputation beyond Leipzig during the eighty years of their combined careers. Falkenstein now had an opportunity to change this, all the more so since Kühn's death happened to coincide with a plan Falkenstein had developed to split physiology from anatomy by creating a new Ordinarius in the former field. To anticipate events related in the next section, he succeeded in calling Kolbe as Kühn's successor and Carl Ludwig as the new Ordinarius in physiology, both in the year 1865; each man was to get an elaborate new institute building in the Waisenhausstrasse. They were located right next door to each other, and both facilities were complete by 1869. Falkenstein did not even pause to catch his breath. The professor of mineralogy Ferdinand Zirkel had a new institute by 1872, likewise for the physicist Wilhelm Hankel by 1873, and for the anatomist Ernst L. Wagner by 1875.


Meanwhile Erdmann had died. At Kolbe's urging, the Philosophical Faculty proposed Rudolf Schmitt (Kolbe's former student, then at the Dresden Polytechnikum), Rudolf Fittig, or Hermann Wichelhaus for the position. Kolbe intentionally suggested only second-rank chemists, for he was convinced that a first-rate chemist would not accept a position that included Erdmann's old and poor laboratory. Someone (perhaps Carl Ludwig) convinced Falkenstein that it would be far better to hire a first-rank physical chemist, and Lothar Meyer and Carl Neumann came under consideration. Kolbe "protested energetically" against hiring such "superficial chatterers," especially since he understood that Kopp might be won for Leipzig. Falkenstein responded to Kolbe's complaint by calling Kopp, but Kopp declined; he merely wanted the call to improve his position in Heidelberg. Finally, Gustav Wiedemann was proposed (probably by Ludwig), and Falkenstein accepted the suggestion. The Faculty protested that Wiedemann was a physicist, not a chemist, but Falkenstein was adamant, and called him for the position—an Ordinarius for physical chemistry, the first such in Germany. Kolbe only asked that Wiedemann share the teaching of inorganic chemistry and that he conduct a chemical as well as a physical-chemical practicum, because by then Kolbe had far more students than he could handle. These conditions were granted.[8]

Wiedemann was in place by 1871 and soon took charge of his own new building—despite Kolbe's pessimistic assumption. Other institutes followed, especially in medical fields. Falkenstein actually stepped down in 1871 (or rather up, as he became Minister of the Royal House), but his plans were continued, albeit in a less grandiose manner, by his successor C. F. von Gerber. By the turn of the century, there were well over a dozen large scientific and medical institutes in the new university district near the Johannisthal. Shortly after Liebig's death in 1873, the Waisenhausstrasse was renamed Liebigstrasse, on Kolbe's urging.[9]

The vast expansion in the Leipzig science enrollments now can be seen at least partially as an understandable market response on the part of the German and non-German student clienteles. In the 1870s and 1880s, Leipzig could offer perhaps the largest and most modern scientific and medical facilities in the world. But how did Falkenstein come to command the large amounts of money required to build all of these institutes and pay the generous salaries necessary to acquire these academic stars?

First, Falkenstein was highly respected and extraordinarily persuasive in Saxon governing circles. He always believed that economic and bureaucratic modernization and continued industrialization offered political prestige, prosperity, and social stability for Saxony in the long


term, and he regarded university reform as an element of this larger goal. Second, he happened to have an enlightened sovereign and a relatively cooperative Ständesversammlung, who normally provided whatever he could make a persuasive case for. Saxony was sufficiently prosperous to bear such financial costs. A third more contextual factor was the academic entrepreneurial fever that caught hold in many of the German states in the 1860s and 1870s. As Joseph Ben-David and others have emphasized, the competitiveness of the decentralized German academic marketplace goes some good distance in explaining the phenomenal rise of the German universities in the nineteenth century.[10]

Finally, it has been mentioned that Leipzig was already one of the wealthiest universities in Germany, with an income during the 1860s of over 100,000 thalers per year. The state had always had to supplement this income, of course, but when Falkenstein's expansion plan got going, the state subsidy increased dramatically, until by 1888 it was over a million marks per year (the currency conversion upon the founding of the Empire established 3 marks to the thaler). Nonetheless, the "academic-mercantilist" case could be (and was) made that this was an investment that yielded immediate dividends, for it was estimated that every non-Saxon student spent about 300 thalers per year attending university, and the non-Saxon contingent mushroomed as a direct result of the investment program. One observer thought that this meant that the home boys were educated essentially for free, subsidized (in effect) by foreigners. Moreover, the indirect and long-term benefits from heightened academic prestige were by no means negligible.[11]

Kolbe's Call to Leipzig and Its Context

In an influential monograph published in 1976, Peter Borscheid argued that the reason the academic study of chemistry in Baden took off after 1850 was that the government was concerned to stabilize the country after the economic and agricultural disasters of the 1840s that had led to revolution in 1848-1849; it was thought that Liebig's interrelated prescriptions for reform of academic and agricultural chemistry had potential to do just that, by raising agricultural fertility and productivity. A similar socioeconomic model for the promotion of scientific medicine in Baden has been convincingly articulated by Arleen Tuchman, although she appears to have weakened Borscheid's case inadvertently by commenting that the reform plans for the Heidelberg science institutes began as early as 1844, that is, before the crises


began.[12] In any event, there is no question that after 1850, not just Baden but a number of German states began to move aggressively to upgrade academic chemistry.

The case for state economic interest as helping to justify this academic reform in Baden (especially at its university in Heidelberg) is strong, as long as this single element is not considered as a full explanation. Above and beyond any particular state agenda was the obvious fact that, for whatever reason, chemistry enrollments in most German universities had begun an upward climb around 1840 and showed no sign of leveling off. The retirement of Leopold Gmelin in 1851 gave the Baden authorities the chance to make a real change. Determined to win a "recognized celebrity," they went all out after Liebig, prepared to make any concession necessary, including the promise of a large new laboratory. Liebig, however, played Heidelberg against Munich for several months, until the latter won out. The choice for Heidelberg then came down to Hofmann or Bunsen; Bunsen got the call, arriving from Breslau in 1852.[13] As for Liebig's arrangement at Munich, he was asked to teach one lecture course per semester with no laboratory instruction and was given a 5000 thaler salary.

The Prussian Ministry of Culture had already caught the fever, for they had attracted Bunsen from Marburg to Breslau the previous year by building for him the largest chemistry institute up to that time, at the high cost of 34,000 thalers. (Bunsen's new laboratory in Heidelberg, however, was to cost 44,000 thalers by the time it was completed in 1854.) Liebig had publicly lambasted Prussian academic chemistry in 1840 in an article that raised a storm in the Berlin Ministry and in all the Prussian universities. The deal that temporarily brought Bunsen to Breslau reflected the altered political climate in Prussia regarding the study of chemistry.[14]

Indeed, as in Baden, the Prussian authorities carried out a heroic overhaul of their chemistry facilities during the 1850s and 1860s. In addition to the Breslau upgrade, a new lab at Königsberg cost 16,000 thalers in 1857, Greifswald had a new institute three years later at a cost of no less than 70,000 thalers, and a new laboratory was built at Halle in 1863 for 35,000 thalers.[15] The flagship of the Prussian educational system, the University of Berlin, had a number of local factors inhibiting reform,[16] but the nearly simultaneous deaths of the two Ordinarien for chemistry, Eilhard Mitscherlich and Heinrich Rose in 1863-1864, provided the necessary opening. Coincidentally, the retirement in 1863 of C. G. Bischof at Bonn gave the Prussian Kultusministerium yet another open post to deal with.

It was in fact the Bonn position that first came open.[17] The Prussian authorities had tired of waiting for Bischof to retire or die, and they


began discussions with Hofmann about a possible call as early as the summer of 1861. Besides having become by this time the most famous chemist of his generation, Hofmann had taken a leave of absence from Bonn nearly twenty years earlier to accept his professorship in London and so was the obvious choice. The call to Bonn apparently came in January 1862, but negotiations dragged on well over a year until Hofmann finally assented in March 1863. The deal was princely: essential features included a salary of 2000 thalers (at the time of his retirement, Mitscherlich was earning only 800), a generous budget, and a new laboratory far larger and more expensive (projected to cost 100,000 thalers) than any hitherto contemplated. Accompanied by his Bonn architect, Hofmann toured Germany for a month in the summer of 1863, gathering design ideas from all the modern chemical laboratories.[18]

The situation became more complicated when, in January of that year, Mitscherlich retired and Gustav Magnus began promoting Hofmann's candidacy at Berlin. After Bunsen was offered the position and declined, Hofmann got this second call about November 1863; it included everything in the Bonn contract, plus an even better salary of 2500 thalers and a larger and more expensive lab. Hofmann was assured that the second choice candidate for Bonn, whoever it might be, would receive exactly the same deal as he had been offered even if he were to go to Berlin, so that choosing this alternative would not have the effect of damaging the future of chemistry at Bonn. Still, Hofmann felt bound by his promise, and by 19 December he had "definitively" decided to go to Bonn. Further negotiations with Berlin over the Christmas holidays, however, led to an arrangement whereby Hofmann would not be forced to choose between these positions until both new institutes were built, or at least definitively designed.[19]

Apparently the death of Heinrich Rose in January 1864 shifted the negotiating ground yet again, for Hofmann now was offered what was in effect the successorship of both Berlin chemists. This made a significant difference, since it was not the custom in German universities to have two Ordinarien in the same field, and it was thought that such split professorships create difficult or even impossible situations. This conviction was only reinforced by the circumstances that Rose and Mitscherlich never got along and that their feud had stymied reform of chemistry in Berlin for many years.

Now that Hofmann was being offered the sole chair of chemistry, it seemed inevitable to all as early as February 1864 that he would end up in Berlin, and by June it was regarded in the chemists' gossip network to have been officially settled.[20] They were right, of course. Remarkably, though, Hofmann's leverage was so great that he was able


to exact the explicit condition that the Bonn position remain open and available to him until the end of 1866, should he find the Berliner life not to his liking.[21] The Berlin lab was begun in May 1865, simultaneous with Hofmann's first semester of teaching there; it took four years to complete, accommodated 70 Praktikanten, and cost the amazing sum of 200,000 thalers, not including the cost of the land, furnishings, and equipment.[22]

Meanwhile, Hofmann did not even definitively give up his London post, taking a three-year leave of absence instead. In April 1865, Kolbe expressed frustration to Vieweg that Hofmann now was holding on to no less than three professorships (four, if both the Rose and Mitscherlich chairs were counted).[23] On 30 August 1865, Kolbe and Hofmann both were visiting Bonn, where Hofmann told his friend that he was undecided whether or not he would stay in Berlin. In the following summer, there was still speculation in Germany that he would take the Bonn position after all. Kolbe described the Bonn lab, still in construction, as "a chemical palace, exceeding all my expectations," though he later thought that it was "somewhat too luxuriously and spaciously appointed." As late as March 1868, some English colleagues were still convinced that Hofmann would return to London.[24]

I have gone into the details of the Hofmann calls partly because Kolbe was a highly interested spectator to these events but also because this episode represents a critical transition in the history of German chemistry, indeed in the history of German academic science. The new Hofmann institutes at Bonn and Berlin were on a hitherto unseen scale, and they provided the models for future institutes, not only in chemistry but also in other fields of science and medicine, not least at Leipzig. A recent scholar has rightly referred to the Hofmann laboratories as well as Kolbe's at Leipzig, which was roughly contemporaneous, as inaugurating the "second generation" of German chemistry institutes.[25]

Kolbe, of course, had long been unhappy in Marburg and was desperate to get a call to either Berlin or Bonn. Once Hofmann was out of the picture, and with Liebig, Wöhler, and Bunsen now permanently situated, a number of names kept appearing as possible candidates for Bonn: Adolf Strecker, Georg Staedeler, Carl Löwig, Heinrich Limpricht, and Hermann von Fehling. However, Kolbe and Kekulé were always the leading candidates. From the start, Kolbe made it clear to everyone that his strong preference would be Bonn. "Es ist Alles verkehrt in Preussen," Kolbe complained, meaning of course Berlin. He felt that there were too many "crossing interests" there, a real "intellectual swamp"; it wore people out at a young age; in contrast, at Bonn one could found a true chemical research school.[26]


Kolbe thought that the Bonn succession entirely depended on whom Hofmann recommended, once Hofmann had definitively declined and the post was no longer encumbered. Frankland reported to Kolbe that Hofmann had enthusiastically endorsed Kolbe's candidacy, but Hofmann told Kekulé's friend Hugo Müller that he had impartially proposed both Kolbe and Kekulé, refusing to state a preference between them. He subsequently told Kolbe directly that he had endorsed Kolbe for Bonn.[27] Kolbe could scarcely believe it when he heard that Kekulé was under consideration. He wrote to Vieweg, "His choice would be in my opinion the grossest blunder, but for that reason is all the more probable under the present regime, which always does the most wrongheaded things." In any case, Kolbe thought that (Gerhardtian) type theorists in general had the advantage in professorial calls at that time; indeed, all the candidates under consideration were "typists" except Kolbe.[28]

In the spring of 1867 the call finally came, and it was to Kolbe. Ironically, Kekulé's candidacy appears to have been derailed by one of his rare responses to Kolbe's insults: the passage had come to the attention of an "influential personage" involved in the deliberations, who concluded that Kekulé was no gentleman.[29] Although by this time Kolbe was well ensconced in Leipzig, with a large new laboratory about to be constructed, he very nearly accepted the call. The sticking point was the insistence on the part of the Prussian ministry that Kolbe share a "portion" of the new lab with the physical chemist Hans Landolt, who was being promoted to Ordinarius. There would thus be another split professorship, which Kolbe regarded as unacceptable, and for this reason alone he declined the offer.[30] "Man kann zu Zwei in einem Bette schlafen, aber nicht zusammen ein Institut benutzen," Kolbe observed sourly to Hofmann, or else he would have gladly accepted.[31]

The call to Bonn then went to Kekulé in June 1867, who quickly and successfully negotiated the conditions. In contrast to Kolbe, Kekulé had no trouble coming to agreement with Landolt over how the lab and the fees were to be divided (Kekulé took two-thirds), for he and Landolt were old friends. In the event, this shared arrangement was not of long duration. The lab was completed in 1868—at a final cost of 144,000 thalers exclusive of furnishings—and two years later Landolt accepted a call to Aachen. Kekulé made sure that Landolt's successor was an ausserordentlicher Professor, subservient to him.[32]

Let us now return to Leipzig, where the Kühn succession had been hanging fire all during the Bonn and Berlin negotiations. Asked (according to tradition) for their recommendations, the Medical Faculty declined to advocate an Ordinarius successor to Kühn, largely be-


cause Erdmann was already professor of chemistry and they thought it inappropriate to repeat the mistake of 1830 and divide the professorship. Instead, they suggested a "provisional arrangement" (presumably looking toward Erdmann's retirement or death) whereby Kühn's Assistent, the Privatdozent Heinrich Hirzel, was to become ausserordentlicher Professor for pharmaceutical chemistry and take over direction of Kühn's laboratory, and Wilhelm Knop, then ausserordentlicher Professor for agricultural chemistry in the Philosophical Faculty, was to be further supported in salary, facilities, and lab budget, and be asked to teach organic chemistry as well.[33]

The professor of anatomy Ernst Wagner wrote a dissenting opinion, suggesting that Knop be called as Kühn's successor and that Hirzel be a second Ordinarius in pharmaceutical chemistry. He would have considered proposing a non-Saxon for the first position, were one to be had (he wrote), except that the Berlin episode (the Mitscherlich-Rose enmity and Hofmann's reluctance before Rose's death to accept a split chair) suggested that going for national candidates would never succeed under a split professorship.[34]

Hirzel (1828-1908) was born and educated in Zurich and had been working with Kühn for fifteen years. He had developed a modest reputation in Leipzig, especially for his teaching and popular science writing. Knop (1817-1891), a Ph.D. under Wöhler and an Assistent successively under Wöhler and Erdmann, taught agricultural chemistry for several years at the public trade school in Leipzig. In 1853 he habilitated in the Philosophical Faculty, then three years later became Director of the recently established agricultural experiment station in Möckern, just outside Leipzig. In 1861 he was promoted to ausserordentlicher Professor. In the late 1850s and 1860s, the value of experiment stations began to be appreciated throughout Germany, and agricultural chemistry penetrated the university system. Knop was particularly valued in Saxony for his important contributions to the discipline, and he was thought (not only in collegial circles but also in the Dresden Kultusministerium) to be essentially irreplaceable.[35]

Falkenstein was unhappy with the faculty report. Although Hirzel had been assistant to Kühn, he was in the Philosophical Faculty. Upon his request for promotion the previous year, that faculty (including Erdmann) had judged him to be inadequately qualified for an Extraordinarius, much less—as Falkenstein argued—for what would amount to be a successor to an Ordinarius. For a field of the importance of chemistry, moreover a subject whose enrollments continue to increase every semester, a certifiably superior academic candidate must be found, and Falkenstein asked the faculty once more for names of such candidates, who surely cannot be rare. The appointment could be


either in the Medical or in the Philosophical Faculty, depending on the candidate's background. Regarding Knop, Falkenstein agreed fully with the faculty's plea for further support and promised to provide it for this excellent researcher. He thought, however, that Knop had more than his hands full without asking him to add organic chemistry to his teaching load. Finally, regarding Erdmann, no slight was intended in going for a second Ordinarius in chemistry; considering the enormous significance of the field, he argued, two full professors are by no means too many.[36]

Four documents were submitted in reply to Falkenstein's second directive: an official faculty response, a second dissenting report by Wagner, a long brief by Erdmann (who, being in the Philosophical Faculty, was not officially involved), and a separate report by the medical faculty concerning the unsatisfactory character of Kühn's old lab on the Universitätsstrasse.[37]

In their official response, a substantial thirty-four-page memorandum, the faculty had little to add or to change from their previous position. They did, however, expatiate at length on their reasons for opposing a "doubled" or "split" professorship. Since the deaths of Mitscherlich in Berlin and Kühn in Leipzig, such an arrangement was found nowhere in Germany, and for good reason. Lines of authority were confused, fee rights were uncertain, and an unhealthy competition ensued for students, lab space, budget dollars, salary, and so on. Consequently, resources were splintered and wasted. Recent history demonstrated, they wrote, that it was next to impossible to attract an eminent chemist to a shared post. Certainly no good chemist would ever want to take over Kühn's lab, which was dark, poorly ventilated, continually disturbed by the noise and shaking of heavy traffic in the Universitätsstrasse, and had poor and outmoded furnishings and equipment. Were a substantial name to be attracted to Leipzig, he would undoubtedly demand a new lab building, which would cost 40,000-50,000 thalers or even more. Finally, the faculty argued, why look outside Saxony when such fine local talents as Hirzel and Knop are available?

In his response, Erdmann related the unusual circumstances behind his and Kühn's joint call in 1830, averring that the results had been "unhappy," "inexpedient," and "crippling." He then rehearsed all of the same arguments that the Medical Faculty had used to oppose a second Ordinarius. The custom of one Ordinarius per discipline is all the more compelling for a field of the growing size and importance of chemistry, Erdmann stressed. He also took the opportunity to complain about his lab. A model of excellence when it opened two decades ago, it was now far behind the rapidly advancing state of the art.


(Erdmann related a recent conversation he had had with Bunsen, during which the latter asked him in surprise, "You mean you don't get everything you ask for?")[38]

Erdmann did explore one possible compromise position: to retain him as sole professor of chemistry, but restrict his teaching to inorganic chemistry and appoint a second Ordinarius for organic chemistry. To be sure, organic is not in principle so very distinct, "but in recent times this field has been pursued so preferentially by younger scientists, and their discipline is characterized by such rapid changes, that it seems entirely justifiable to give it a specialized representation by a younger talent"—just as Wöhler and Bunsen had done in Göttingen and Heidelberg, he added.[39]

Falkenstein finally lost patience, and his irritation showed.[40] His third directive represented a firm rejection of the faculty's proposal and a reiteration of his desire to replace Kühn with a second Ordinarius, indeed with the most eminent chemist anywhere to be found. No one could possibly object to a second Ordinarius for a field with the demand and the importance of chemistry; Leipzig already had high enrollments in the field, and they would no doubt continue to grow. The faculty's opinion notwithstanding, a provisional arrangement with local Extraordinarien would have the effect of limiting and diminishing the field. Nor could one Ordinarius be limited to inorganic chemistry, the other to organic chemistry, for that would violate the cherished principle of Lehrfreiheit.

Falkenstein's response indicates that he was trying to loose the faculty's hold on the unstated assumption that money and resources were highly circumscribed (a mistaken notion, as we have seen, that was still made during the negotiations over the Erdmann succession five years later). Leipzig was a large and wealthy university, Falkenstein argued, and we should be thinking in expansive terms. He was untroubled by the faculty's frightened warning about the need for a new institute were the search to be national; if a new institute is needed, we will provide it, he affirmed. He once again asked for a proposed set of national candidates, if necessary coordinated with the Philosophical Faculty, "and [the ministry] does not want to neglect drawing attention among others to the name of Professor Kolbe in Marburg, who has been recommended to us by a number of knowledgeable men."[41]

Since Kolbe was a nonphysician, following receipt of this directive the Medical Faculty asked a committee from the Philosophical Faculty to deliberate with them. In May 1865 they fully capitulated to Falkenstein's requests, reaching a quick and unanimous decision to accept Kolbe's nomination and to make the appointment in the Philosophical


Faculty. The decision was communicated to the Ministerium in memos of 31 May and 13 June from the Medical and Philosophical Faculties, respectively. On the former date, Erdmann wrote Kolbe to tell him of the call.[42]

Kolbe knew as early as 7 February from a letter from his old Marburg acquaintance Carl Ludwig (whom Falkenstein had just called to Leipzig) that his name was under consideration for a call to Leipzig, along with Kekulé and Strecker.[43] Kolbe was inclined to accept such a call, given the proper conditions; he strongly preferred Bonn, but that post was still encumbered to Hofmann.[44] He investigated whether a Bonn call might actually come (the Prussian minister Olshausen later told Kolbe that he wanted to call him, but that his hands were still tied by the Hofmann commitment), while at the same time using Ludwig to help him formulate conditions of acceptance.[45]

Those conditions were to include full equality with Erdmann as second Ordinarius for chemistry; a new laboratory, comparable to the Berlin and Bonn institutes, to be built within two years; a 2500-thaler start-up budget for new equipment and supplies; an annual lab budget of 1000 thalers; three assistants; and a salary matching Bonn's offer to Hofmann of 2000 thalers. The salary was by any measure generous; just in March—presumably in direct response to the early feelers from Dresden—the Kurhessian ministry had given Kolbe a raise from 800 to 1000 thalers.[46] As early as 16 June, he was indicating privately to friends that he intended to accept the Leipzig offer, with or without a new lab, but he continued negotiating for nearly two more months before formally accepting. He traveled to Leipzig on 26 September, staying at the Hotel de Prusse while renting winter lodgings for his family in Königsplatz 14, near Kühn's old lab in the Universitätsstrasse, which he would temporarily inherit. A week later he returned to Marburg to arrange his move. On the first of October, he declared to Vieweg, "Today I am a Saxon!" and on the fourteenth he arrived in Leipzig with his wife and three children. On the sixth of November, he had a highly gratifying audience with King Johann that lasted a quarter hour. The next day he gave the first lecture of his Leipzig career.[47]

Establishing the Leipzig Laboratory

As mentioned, until Kolbe's new lab was built, he was forced to work in Kühn's unsatisfactory facility. One condition he made was to ask for an immediate expansion of this lab, into the ground floor space of the adjoining building (a private house acquired by the university). This addition was finished with "fabulous speed," in time for the Prak-


tikum to begin in early November. But Kolbe was shocked at the conditions in Kühn's lab: it contained not a single retort, condenser, filter stand, or piece of useable glassware. He was amazed that Kühn could even pretend to teach laboratory procedures there; he had to spend twice his start-up budget just to get to the point where he could accept students. Still, he felt happy to be in Leipzig, "newly invigorated" by the change, impressed by the excellent collegial spirit among the professors, and delighted to be free of the "miserable relationships" in Marburg. In the spring, Kolbe moved his family into an apartment directly adjacent to the lab, at Universitätsstrasse 20.[48]

Problems soon arose. The Saxon Kultusministerium that had been so generous with its thalers now began to pinch groschen, complaining about the projected cost of the new lab and the salaries of assistants. It delayed the start of construction from the promised date of Easter 1866, first to that summer, then upon the outbreak of war to the summer of 1867. Meanwhile, Kolbe was gratified by the demand for his talents: seventy Praktikanten per semester were registering and more than eighty auditors for his lectures, which stretched even the expanded lab to its limits and beyond. This was more than Erdmann and Knop were attracting in both of their laboratories combined. Even the war made no difference to his enrollments.[49]

The funding for the new institute was finally formally approved by the Ständesversammlung in January 1867, and construction in the Waisenhausstrasse began in late August 1867, with a budget of 80,000 thalers. The large plot (220 by 250 Fuss[50] ) was acquired by the university from the city by means of a real estate trade. In March and April 1867, Kolbe toured other laboratories in Berlin, Greifswald, Marburg, Heidelberg, Munich, Stuttgart, Bonn, and Zurich in the company of his architect, Zocher; in March 1868 he spent three weeks in London on the same assignment. Remarkably, his favorite lab was Staedeler's, in Zurich. The plans were approved in July 1867, and construction began the following month. After the long delay, rapid progress was made, so that by the time of his second architectural tour, the structure was already roofed. The residence was ready for occupancy by October 1868, and the official dedication of the lab took place on 16 November. The final cost was about 85,000 thalers, plus 15,000 for furnishings and equipment.[51] This amount was considerably less than what the Prussians had spent on either the Bonn or Berlin institutes, even though the Leipzig lab could accommodate as many students as both put together.

Kolbe was now master of a wonderful edifice, by far the largest chemistry institute in Germany and probably the world.[52] Above the large, well-lit basement (housing the furnace, coal bins, laundry, baths,


and pantry) was the main floor, then a second story above which were attic storage rooms. The two main floors held 44 rooms in all—altogether 51,000 square Fuss (4660 square meters) of working and living space—with high fifteen-foot ceilings. Kolbe made certain that the building was designed for maximum light and ventilation in all rooms. It was equipped with coal-fired steam heat, running water, gas for illumination and burners, and all of the most modern conveniences. Fully a seventh of this space was taken up by an opulent director's residence along the front wing of the building, open to the light and air on three sides, and consisting of fourteen large rooms plus a cellar and attic, with a small garden outside. A hundred feet of second-floor corridor separated Kolbe's airy private study in his residence from his well-equipped private laboratory.

The building was laid out roughly in a letter "E" shape, a configuration that was much admired and copied, particularly in the United States, for its rational management of natural light. The "E" was arrayed with its bottom line along the east-west Waisenhausstrasse; four main laboratory rooms for the Praktikanten were laid out along the main north-south axis, two on each main floor, with the beginners below and the advanced students on somewhat larger benches above. In addition to an impressive variety of special purpose laboratory spaces for the students, the building also provided residences for the superintendent and three assistants, and private labs for the latter as well as for the director. Two auditoriums, seating 60 and 160 students, respectively, were also located on the ground floor. The smaller one was essentially for the Privatdozenten, while the larger one—boasting a nineteen-foot ceiling and a hundred illumination burners for evening lectures-was for the director.

Projecting upward from his average Praktikum enrollments of 70 per semester during 1865-1867, Kolbe planned initially for a capacity of 100. Falkenstein, however, urged Kolbe to think more expansively, to plan for a maximum of 130. Kolbe was doubtful, knowing this was twice the size of any institute yet planned or built and fearing later recriminations regarding unused space, but he swallowed hard and accepted Falkenstein's proposal.[53] To Kolbe's shock and amazement, even this huge capacity was soon oversubscribed. It took only a year after the new institute was opened for the number to hit 100, and by summer semester 1872 the capacity of 130 was reached.[54]

The following semester no fewer than 170 students attempted to register for the Praktikum. Kolbe at first wanted simply to turn 40 of them away, but a means was devised to fit all of them into the existing space. Since there was no way he could directly oversee the work of so many, Kolbe arranged that the 40 extra students would pay their hon-


oraria directly to the assistants supervising them—of whom he now had five—and not to him. As Kolbe admitted to Liebig, this was all part of his plan to prove to the Kultusministerium under the new leadership of Gerber how important he was and what sort of student demand he could command.[55] In the summer of 1873, he had no fewer than 210 attempted registrations, of whom he accepted 170. For one more semester, winter semestor 1873/74, he accepted 170, then, his point having been driven home, he ruled that thereafter only the first 130 were to be accepted.[56] His enrollments in lecture have not been documented; only once have I found a mention in correspondence, namely, that in winter semester 1881/82 he had 270 auditors (in 1873 Kolbe's auditorium had been expanded to seat 250).[57]

Kolbe had certainly come up in the world, and in a hurry. As late as 1860 in Marburg, Kolbe was attracting merely a dozen or so Praktikanten per semester into his laboratory and a similar number into his auditorium. Six years later he had increased these numbers sixfold, or looking at a longer period, the demand jumped fifteenfold in the course of thirteen years. During the 1870s, Kolbe's institute was by far the largest of all seventeen institutes, seminars, and Sektionen at the University of Leipzig.[58] Kolbe was successful in using these numbers as leverage, for in 1866 his budget was doubled to 2000 thalers, then in 1872 doubled again to 4000. He did not worry about increasing his salary, for with all the students at his disposal, his honoraria were substantial, over 5000 thalers per year. From his teaching alone, Kolbe was earning close to 8000 thalers per year in 1873, six or seven times what he had been making a dozen years earlier.[59]

What factors operated to produce this fabulous success story? No doubt Kolbe himself ascribed it principally to his success as a teacher and scholar, and to some degree he was correct. However, other considerations were also important. All the universities of the German Empire were booming in the early 1870s, and none more so than Leipzig. After 1868 Kolbe had the largest and most modern institute in Germany to serve as a draw. Even so, other institute directors at major universities were having similar experiences. Wislicenus at Würzburg reported 102 Praktikanten for summer semester 1874, including 28 professionalizing chemists; Volhard had 151 for winter 1877/78.[60]

Moreover, even in the era of one Ordinarius per institute, Kolbe had a degree of monopoly on the teaching of chemistry in Leipzig that was rare in Germany. For example, Wöhler, Liebig, and Bunsen at Göttingen, Munich, and Heidelberg, respectively, had created decentralized institutes where much basic chemical instruction—and virtually all of it in the burgeoning field of organic chemistry—was tendered by Extraordinarien and Privatdozenten. Erdmann's successor, hired in


1871, was Gustav Wiedemann, who was much more a physicist than a chemist and could attract little chemistry clientele—despite Kolbe's efforts to have him share the load. Knop was still around; in 1870 he was promoted to Ordinarius, but was simultaneously absorbed within the new Landwirtschaftliches Institut to teach agricultural chemistry only. Hirzel had given up academia altogether and had henceforth applied himself to entrepreneurial activities. Therefore, not only did the professionalizing chemists, whose numbers were exploding, find themselves in Kolbe's chemistry classes but also every student of pharmacy and medicine and many students in other applied fields such as veterinary medicine, forestry, economics, metallurgy, and agriculture. Finally, Kolbe was one of the few eminent and active organic chemists around who were accepting personal students, his major rivals being Kekulé in Bonn and Hofmann in Berlin, and this at a time when organic chemistry was booming.

Kolbe also knew how to promote his subject. In the introduction to his book Das chemische Laboratorium der Universität Leipzig , he aggressively defended the pedagogical utility of the study of chemistry, not only for science students, but also for philosophers, philologists, and law students. Chemistry is often criticized by laymen as a crude and empirical craft, whereas, Kolbe proudly affirmed, it is a true science and an essential liberal art, an integral part of natural philosophy with well-developed theoretical structures; the time cannot be distant when all will be expected to study chemistry to become truly educated.[61] This is especially true for theology students, he thought. Directly reflecting the views of his father, the broadminded pastor Carl Kolbe (whose death had occurred just two years previously), Kolbe wrote

It is becoming ever more apparent these days that there must be a change in the academic training of our theologians, whose orthodoxy has alienated the public and is the principal culprit in the much-lamented indifference of the masses toward the institutions of the church as well of those of the state, whose intolerant rigidity and narrowmindedness repels even the educated classes. The young theologian requires a broader education than he has customarily received, he must above all become acquainted with the natural world in which he lives, and study the Book of Nature, this other divine revelation, as well as the Book of Books.[62]

Kolbe concluded his brief by arguing for the long-term economic significance of chemistry. Saxony was highly respected for its industrial might, hence its wealth, especially in the machine and chemical industries. Regarding the latter, whence came this fortunate situation? His answer: from the Saxon academic laboratories where chemists are properly educated—during the last generation especially by Erdmann.


It was because Saxony and its sister states had wisely invested in chemical education that German chemical industry had become stronger than the English or French industries, where comparable investments had not been made. Moreover, he continued, it is prudent for a state to invest heavily in academic laboratories, for they serve as models for private industrial labs, which increase the prosperity of a state.[63]

It must be noted that Kolbe's contention was neither obvious nor irrefutable. He admitted as much by conceding that German academic chemistry had often been treated in a stepmotherly way in comparison to the more traditional fields. In sharp contrast to other fields, even other laboratory disciplines, chemistry students were required to pay for their own materials, a burden that added anywhere from 5 to 100 thalers or more per semester onto their costs. In addition, the Prussian and some other German universities demanded a pro rata contribution from each student to defray the laboratory's general budget. This special "tax" was "not only unfair and unjust, but also impolitic from a national-economic viewpoint," as Kolbe attempted to argue. Rather than voicing alarm at the "epidemic" of interest in the study of chemistry with its attendant costs, university administrators should greet this development with joy for the future national prosperity that it portends.[64]

The importance of the science-versus-technology question here broached by Kolbe warrants discussion. To Edward Frankland, sitting in the capital of the unenlightened British Empire, Kolbe's arguments were welcome but also not self-evident. He wrote to Kolbe:

I wish you could in some way demonstrate this, which, a priori ought certainly to be the case. Just the opposite opinion unfortunately prevails here & greatly impedes the progress of experimental science in this country. When I urge upon Politicians here the disgraceful position of science in this country as compared with Germany, they reply contemptuously "What has science done for German commerce & manufactures? To whom are due the invention of the two greatest modern chemical manufactures—Paraffin oil & Aniline colours? Are they not due to Englishmen? Why, if all this science does her any good, does Germany still dread the competition of our manufacturers, and impose enormous duties on our goods and why, notwithstanding these high protective duties, and the greater cost of labour and coal in this country, is Germany still our best customer for chemicals and steel? Why is Germany obliged to apply to England to get her capital supplied with Water and Gas?" These are awkward questions, & when I say "There is a want of enterprise in Germany (to which the wretched condition of the streets of Berlin & the overcrowding bear testimony)" the reply of course is "Yes! and this want of enterprise is caused by too much attention to, & dependence upon, abstract science."[65]


As it happened, of course, this debate was occuring right at the watershed period in which German chemical industry was first beginning to be strongly influenced by academic science, and the latter was climbing toward world leadership. Frankland's unnamed politicians were right that it had been an Englishman, William Henry Perkin, who first developed a commercially successful coal tar dye, in 1856-1858. What they failed to note was that Perkin had been a student of Hofmann at the Royal College of Chemistry, that Hofmann represented a partial transplanting of German (Liebigian) academic science into England, and that Hofmann and several other German expatriates had since returned to Germany.

Many entrepreneurs correctly perceived that Perkin's discovery promised to transform a plentiful but worthless waste product of gas and coke production into a valuable feedstock material, and so a large number of dye companies were formed in Britain, France, and Germany during the late 1850s and the early 1860s. The pace of innovation in these early years was furious, but experimentation was not guided by well-understood or well-articulated theory. That began to change in 1863, with the introduction by Edward Nicholson's firm of systematically alkylated aromatic dyes appropriately named "Hofmann's violets." After Kekulé's benzene theory was proposed, the influence of theory became much stronger. The first dramatic payoff of structure theory for the chemical industry came in 1868-1869 with the synthetic production of the important natural dye alizarin, in which Baeyer, Graebe, Carl Liebermann, Heinrich Caro, and Perkin all played significant roles. At this time, alizarin was second only to indigo as a dye, and its source, madder, was the major crop in Provence and other parts of the world. With the introduction of the chemists' far cheaper and purer alizarin, the madder farmers were ruined. From this time on, a clear trend toward the amalgamation of theory and practice was much in evidence, especially in Germany. The English, however, were slow to see the connection. In another generation, the relationship was evident to all, but not yet in 1872.[66]

I have said nothing yet about the details of Kolbe's classes and practica in Leipzig. Unfortunately, documents that could illuminate such details do not seem to have survived. The semester enrollments previously discussed suggest that Kolbe instructed about 1600 Praktikanten during his nineteen years in Leipzig. Records of promotions to the doctorate do survive and indicate that he served as advisor to 68 Doktoranden.[67] Among the best known of his practicum students in Leipzig were Ernst von Meyer, Henry Armstrong, A. M. Zaitsev, V. V. Markovnikov, Constantin Fahlberg, Hermann Ost, Ernst Beckmann, Rudolf Leuckart, and Theodor Curtius.


Every winter semester Kolbe lectured on inorganic chemistry six days a week at nine A.M. , every summer semester on organic chemistry four days a week at eight. His beginners' Praktikum was four or five days per week, two to three hours per day; advanced students worked from nine until one and two until five o'clock, six days a week.[68] From three assistants in 1865, Kolbe worked his way up to four in 1870, then five by late 1872. Advanced Praktikanten numbered a dozen or so per semester early in Kolbe's Leipzig period, and more like thirty to fifty during the 1870s.[69] During this latter period, Kolbe had three of his assistants carry out the primary supervision of the beginners on the ground floor, while a fourth helped him with the advanced workers upstairs; the fifth assistant was dedicated to the lecture experiments. But Kolbe kept abreast of the progress of every Praktikant, no matter how crowded his laboratory became nor how much a novice the student was.[70]

Indeed, Kolbe regarded such personal attention as a fundamental pedagogical principle. It led, he averred, to a certain "patriarchal relationship" between him and his students, which developed over the long term into a permanent esprit de corps that reinforced the positive qualities he was seeking to instill. His strict hierarchical bureaucratic organization thus had a certain pedagogical justification, and moreover it seems to have operated well, without the authoritarian tone that many expected.

Kolbe explicitly stated that his pedagogical philosophy and teaching methods as developed in Marburg continued without essential change in Leipzig.[71] Those methods have been described in chapter 5, with firsthand reminiscences by Leipzig students, Markovnikov in 1866-1867 and Armstrong in 1867-1870. One more witness may be introduced here, that of his student and eventual son-in-law Ernst von Meyer (1847-1916).

Meyer, descended from an aristocratic Kurhessian family, was a second cousin of Kolbe's wife and knew her slightly from Marburg. After arriving in Leipzig and attending Kolbe's first lecture for winter semester 1866/67, he introduced himself, was received in a formal fashion (typical of northern Germans, commented Meyer), and was invited to visit. He soon became intimate with the entire family. His reminiscences of the laboratory routine dovetail with those of Markovnikov and Armstrong, as well as with Kolbe's descriptions. Meyer wrote

A better school than Kolbe's I could not wish for.... With the help of able assistants (Finkelstein and Drechsel) he was able to devote himself to everyone, even the beginners; he would not tolerate any of the many


reactions we observed to remain unclear to us. At that time there were still no printed short introductions to qualitative analysis, as are ordinarily in use today. Our handwritten observations were examined and reviewed by an assistant, also by Kolbe himself. This kind of instruction instilled in the beginner a firm foundation for further development.

Meyer stayed in Leipzig two years, then attended Heidelberg before serving as an officer in the Franco-Prussian war. On his return to Leipzig, he resumed his studies, earning a doctorate in 1872, whereupon he became one of Kolbe's assistants. In 1875 he became engaged to Kolbe's eighteen-year-old daughter Johanna, and they married the following year.[72]

Acquiring a Journal

During the 1840s and 1850s, Liebig's monthly Annalen der Chemie und Pharmacie dominated the field of academic chemistry in Germany. (Poggendorff accepted principally physical and physical-chemical papers for his Annalen der Physik und Chemie , and Erdmann's Journal für praktische Chemie was oriented toward technology and consisted mostly of reprinted articles.) When Liebig went to Munich, he gave over the effective editorship to Hermann Kopp (though Liebig's and Wöhler's names remained on the title page), and Kopp took those duties with him when he transferred to Heidelberg. Kopp was very conscientious, but his authors grew increasingly restive at his dilatory publication schedule. This was all the more galling to active researchers in the fast-moving and increasingly cutthroat field of organic chemistry, where notices could be published by French rivals in the biweekly Comptes rendus or by English rivals in the weekly Chemical Gazette in a fraction of the time. When Erlenmeyer took over Kekulé's Zeitschrift für Chemie in 1860, he reconstituted it as a fast publication outlet for original short papers, preliminary communications, foreign notices, and republished pieces, loosely patterned after the Comptes rendus .[73]

Erlenmeyer's Zeitschrift might well have given the Liebig-Kopp Annalen stiff competition were it not for Erlenmeyer's unwise editorial practices. For one thing, he used the journal indiscriminately as an outlet for his own profuse and often incautious theoretical speculations. As Beilstein later put it to Butlerov, Erlenmeyer's "occasional good thoughts were simply drowned in the great amount of sauce that he poured over everything. I finally just stopped reading his long essays..."[74]

More seriously as far as the commercial success of the endeavor was


concerned, Erlenmeyer increasingly began to write critical editorial notes, some of them lengthy and some quite sarcastic, and he occasionally used exclamation points and question marks inserted in parentheses into his authors' printed manuscripts. He did this even with his friends and theoretical comrades-in-arms; his hitherto close personal and professional relationship with Kekulé was nearly destroyed by these practices.[75] Ultimately they destroyed his journal.[76]

It should be noted that Erlenmeyer's critical style of editorship conformed to a well-established German tradition, in science as in other fields. As far as chemistry is concerned, Berzelius' Jahresberichte (a foreign product in origin but having its widest promulgation and greatest influence in Germany) and Liebig's Annalen of the 1830s might be mentioned as examples of periodicals having a principal goal of regular critical evaluation of the literature. Moreover, both Liebig and Berzelius could be quite sharp in their judgments. But both became worn out and worn down by the strain.[77]

In March 1864 Erlenmeyer told Kolbe, who was at that time a real friend, that he had nearly decided to quit his editorship. He complained that an editor's position was inherently delicate and awkward (misslich ) and really should be performed only by a real authority in the field. Kolbe agreed, only adding that the editor must be an elder authority. The forty-five-year-old chemist wrote,

Frankly, I would think that even I am too young to edit a critical journal. For years I have toyed with the idea of writing short annual reports on chemistry, more specifically of a critical character, for which those of Berzelius would serve as a model. But first I want to seek a firm foundation for myself. Perhaps in ten years, if I live to see it, I may seriously consider it.[78]

Kolbe also agreed that Erlenmeyer's critiques had hurt him and his journal and commented that the same reproach had often been made to him. He added that he had resolved to deal henceforth less with polemics, critiques, and theories and more with facts and observations, and he suggested the same course for Erlenmeyer.

Erlenmeyer did not want to give up without a fight. With Butlerov he explored the idea of transforming the Zeitschrift into a Russian journal—many of the subscribers were Russian, anyway—but Butlerov wanted none of that.[79] With Kolbe he explored the possibility of making the journal a weekly, analogous to the Chemical Gazette (now renamed, under William Crookes' editorship, the Chemical News ). Kolbe got Vieweg interested in this idea, and he even volunteered to be head editor for an interim period. However, it appears that Erlenmeyer's requested honorarium was more than Vieweg wanted to pay,


at least not before he could see what sales would be.[80] In any event, the journal was taken over, beginning in January 1865, by three younger associates of Wöhler in Göttingen: Ausserordentlicher Professor Friedrich Beilstein, Privatdozent Rudolf Fittig, and Assistent Hans Hübner, who ultimately became Wöhler's successor. Hübner became the chief editor and made a success of the second series of the Zeitschrift , more than tripling subscriptions in six years.

Kolbe was unhappy with the change. He advised Erlenmeyer to have nothing at all to do with what promised to be a "watery and colorless" journal. He was certain in 1864 that the editors would fail in a year or two, at which point Erlenmeyer could pick the enterprise up again; in the meantime they could all expect to see a good deal of "Göttinger Mist." He also advised Erlenmeyer to have nothing to do with Erdmann's Journal für praktische Chemie . This journal still had a respectable readership, which was mystifying to Kolbe, who thought the editing was extremely poor. "I hear that Erdmann has almost nothing to do with it himself, but rather leaves the editing to one of his assistants."[81]

In addition to the Annalen , the Zeitschrift , and the Journal , a fourth chemical periodical began in 1867—the Berichte of the new Deutsche Chemische Gesellschaft (DCG). The DCG was founded in Berlin as a German analog of the Chemical Society or the Société Chimique, and its Berichte was at first merely a small and essentially local "proceedings of sessions" of the society. However, the deficiencies of the Annalen under Kopp's editorship as well as the explosive growth in the science of chemistry led to an explosive growth in subsequent annual volumes of the Berichte . By the early 1870s, it was beginning to serve as the periodical of choice among German chemists for rapid publication of short communications. The resulting competition forced the Zeitschrift out of business after December 1871.

Meanwhile, the general dissatisfaction with the Annalen was coming to a head. In the late 1860s, Kekulé conceived the notion of founding a companion journal for the Berichte , allowing the latter to specialize in short preliminary notes while the new periodical would publish the detailed versions of the same research at a later time—much like the relationship of the Comptes rendus to the Annales de chimie . Before Kekulé made his idea public, Kopp decided in March 1871 to retire as editor of the Annalen . Liebig asked his (and Kolbe's) former student Jacob Volhard if he would take on the day-to-day editorial work; Volhard accepted on the condition that Erlenmeyer be joint editor. This created a logistically favorable arrangement since all three men were working in Munich. Kekulé decided this was the propitious moment to let colleagues know of his plan for a new journal. The reac-


tion, however, was largely negative, since many had a sentimental attachment to the Annalen and it was thought that a new journal would kill Liebig's historic progeny. Consequently, Kekulé's project failed.[82] One of the most energetic protesters was Kolbe, who in the meantime had acquired a new journal himself, Erdmann's Journal für praktische Chemie .

Kolbe promised Erdmann on the latter's deathbed that he would complete the editing of the current volume of the journal. This placed Kolbe in an enviable position since he was the logical person for the publisher (Barth) to ask to take over in a permanent capacity. Moreover, Kolbe was aware that his friends Heinrich Vieweg and Franz Varrentrapp of Vieweg Verlag (Eduard Vieweg had suffered a stroke and was then terminally ill) were interested in principle in publishing a chemical periodical. For three weeks in October 1869, Kolbe negotiated between Barth and Vieweg for the best possible conditions. Regarding a possible new Vieweg journal, Kolbe promised the partners that he would employ "respectful criticism with as little polemics as possible." He also wanted a managing editor who would do essentially all the daily tasks (as Volhard and Erlenmeyer did for the Annalen ). He thought it likely that he could get Falkenstein to agree to Rudolf Schmitt as Erdmann's successor, who would be the perfect man for the role. He figured around 600 thalers per year for all editing honoraria sounded about right.[83]

Kolbe well knew the advantages of a personal journal, having in mind the models of Berzelius' Jahresberichte as well as Liebig's Annalen in its early years. We have seen that he had been thinking of a personal journal at least for several years before 1869. "What particularly attracts me about editing a journal," he wrote Varrentrapp,

. . . is the value it has for a large chemical laboratory to have a journal at its disposal at all times, and not to be dependent on the mercy or mood of another when it is a question of rapid publication and defense and advocacy of a viewpoint.... You know that it matters to me to have the Journal für pr. Chemie at my disposal, and that it would be very unfortunate were it to end up in the hands of another director of a large chemical institute, such as Hofmann.[84]

Negotiations with both Vieweg and Barth nearly collapsed in November, and Kolbe temporarily gave up all hopes; but in January 1870 he reached agreement with Barth to take over the Journal .[85] He was to retain the editorship until his death almost fifteen years later, and he certainly made the most of his permanent platform; but he did not, as he promised Vieweg, avoid polemics.


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