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Justus von Liebig (1803-73)

Until the 1800s, universities were teaching institutions, not places for scientific research. Laboratories were set up by private individuals or by scientific societies and academies. The German chemist Justus von Liebig founded the first university-based research laboratory at the University of Giessen in central Germany. This laboratory was highly successful, and became the model for similar laboratories in universities around the world.

Liebig's own research investigated the chemical aspects of nutrition, and the application of chemistry to medical disciplines such as physiology and pathology. In the course of his work on nutrition, Liebig also developed a highly popular extract of meat as a food supplement for the sick and the malnourished poor. It went into mass production when the Liebig Extract of Meat Company Ltd (LEMCO) was founded in 1865. One of its most enduringly successful products, the Oxo cube, is still on sale to this day.

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W H Brock, Justus von Liebig: The Chemical Gatekeeper (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997)

J Büttner, 'Justus von Liebig and his influence on clinical chemistry', Ambix, 47/2 (2000), pp 96-117

M R Finlay, '"Quackery and cookery": Justus von Liebig's extract of meat and the theory of nutrition in the Victorian age', The Bulletin of the History of Medicine, 66 (1992), pp 404-418

F L Holmes, 'The complementarity of teaching and research in Liebig's laboratory' Osiris 5 (1989), pp 121-164

J Liebig, 'Die Thier-Chemie, oder die organische Chemie in ihrer Anwendung auf Physiologie und Pathologie', Animal Chemistry, or Organic Chemistry in its Applications to Physiology and Pathology, edited from the author's manuscript by W Gregory (London: Taylor and Walton, 1842)



The science of the functioning of living organisms and their component parts.


The branch of medicine concerned with disease, especially its structure and effects on the body.