Justus Liebig’s Laboratory, Gießen, Germany

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The Justus Liebig’s Laboratory has been awarded the EuChemS Historical Landmarks Award in recognition of the role it played in the history of chemistry and the European sense of belonging between people and ideas. Located in Gießen (State of Hesse) in Germany, the chemist Justus von Liebig worked in this laboratory from 1824 to 1852. He subsequently worked in Munich until his death in 1873. 

Justus von Liebig is considered as one of the main founders of organic chemistry and is well known for his major contributions to agricultural and biological chemistry. Liebig is also recognised for transforming chemistry education: he is one of the first chemists who engaged with his students by combining research and teaching in a laboratory – as we know it in its present form. Furthermore, Liebig was a truly European figure:  his major advisor – who also directed his PhD thesis – was Karl Wilhelm Gottlob Kastner, while he did what today would be called his postdoc with Guy-Lussac. He popularised chemistry through his book Chemische Briefe (1844) which was widely disseminated and translated in Europe, and founded the journal Annalen der Chemie (1832), later known as Liebigs Annalen, which became the leading journal in chemistry and is still in circulation today as the European Journal of Organic Chemistry.

Erected in 1818, Justus Liebig’s Laboratory building was turned into a museum in 1920. Rich collections of historical documents, including hundreds of letters, chemistry books, pictures, chemical apparatus, scientific instruments, and personal memorabilia make the Liebig Museum one of the most impressive chemistry museums worldwide. It is also one of the oldest laboratory buildings remaining, where the visitor can experience the original function and the working conditions of the time when chemistry entered the universities. Moreover, technical installations, including ovens, hoods, and drainage, remain well preserved.  

With approximately 8000 visitors a year from all across the world, the museum reaches out to the public with the important message about the significance of chemistry not just as a natural science, but in many fields of our history and culture. The museum does this not only via its exhibitions on 370 m2, but with several experimental lectures aimed at the youth and general public. In addition to in-person visits, it also offers digital tours as well.

On the occasion of Liebig’s 200th birthday in 2003, his place of work in Gießen was awarded the ‘Historic sites of Chemistry’ Award (Historische Stätten der Chemie) of the German Chemical Society (GDCh), a EuChemS Member Society.