The chemistry laboratory and medicinal drugs collection of the king in 1676. (Sébastien Leclerc )
Chemistry in the « Jardin Royal des Plantes Médicinales » (Royal garden for medicinal plants)
Since the creation of « Jardin Royal des plantes Médicinales » in 1626, chemistry was taught along with botany and anatomy. The subject was taught by a professor with demonstrations that was carried out by a demonstrator. Many of these demonstrators marked the history of chemistry and often strived to counter the teachings of the professor through their experiences.
In 1647, chemistry teaching was handed over to the Scottish physician alchemist William Davisson: This is was the first free chemistry class taught to the public in France. Davisson’s successors transformed slowly the laboratory in the Royal garden into one of the highly animated chemistry laboratories of the 18th century. Among them, Guillaume-François Rouelle, also called Rouelle l’ainé was one of the important figures of his time: most of the great chemists belonging to the pre-revolution era such as Bayen, Bucquet, Darcet, Marcquer and especially Lavoisier were formed in his laboratory. Moreover, philosophers Denis Diderot and Jean-Jacques Rousseau too had followed Rouelle’s class in the Gardens and information about these classes are known to us through the notes of Diderot. Later, Fourcroy who was a “chimiste et conventionnel” taught Lavoisier’s new chemistry, of which he was a strong proponent in the Royal garden and in the Museum after 1793 .
Chemistry in the Museum of Natural History
On 10 juin 1793, the « jardin de Roy » was renamed « Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle » and chemistry continued to develop with two chairs namely, general chemistry dedicated to theoretical chemistry and chemical arts dedicated to applications of chemistry. Later in1850, they were known as «Applied organic chemistry » and « Applied inorganic chemistry » .
Personalities such as Nicolas Vauquelin, Joseph Gay-Lussac, Michel Eugène Chevreul marked both the fields through their work and teachings. Edmond Frémy, the last professor of inorganic chemistry deserves a special mention. In 1864, period when chemical engineering schools did not exist in France, Fremy created his chemistry school in the Museum that offered free courses and gave greater importance for experiments. He was the one who inaugurated in December 1872, the building situated at 63, rue Buffon where stands the actual chemistry laboratory. Between 1864 to 1892 , after which the school was abolished, more than 1400 students were formed who later became the artists of the chemical industry and university research and the well known among them are Henir Moissan, first french who was awarded Nobel prize in chemistry (1906), Léon Arnaud, Alexandre Etard, Gabriel Bertrand, Auguste Verneuil, Henri Becquerel, Jacques Curie.
Chemistry classes for the public by Gay-Lussac and later by Fremy.