Picture of the month
On the trail of pharmaceutical development
It is no coincidence that the glasses in our picture of the month are very colourful. They contain pharmaceutical-chemical and mineral substances that were used as pharmaceuticals. The Greek word for “pharmaceutical” (pharmakon) contains not only “poison” but also “colour” as a secondary meaning. The sight glasses come from the Pharmaceutical History Collection (Schneider Collection) of TU Braunschweig, which is looked after by the Department of the History of Science and Pharmacy.
These sight glasses in our picture of the month for November document a double wealth – substances extracted from the soil and water that continue to change or have already changed under the influence of light and air. Some of the substances come from mines, such as the nearby Rammelsberg.
In the understanding of nature, minerals formed one of the three kingdoms of nature alongside plants and animals until the middle of the 19th century. In view of the dynamic development in research of the active ingredients of animal and plant organisms from this time onwards, it is often forgotten that the growing understanding of inorganic chemical processes was also central to pharmaceutical development – and this applies just as much to the development of industrial chemistry.
The traces of this development, as documented by Schneider’s unique collection of substances, were traced by Dr Anette Marquardt in her doctoral thesis.
Exploring the entanglements of industrial chemistry, pharmacy, natural history and art
Based on the multiple meanings of the word “pharmaceutical”, the Department of the History of Pharmacy, together with students of pharmacy, created an exhibition on the history of the collection over several semesters on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the collection. Under the title “Pharmakon – Farbe – Zauber – Gift – Arznei” (Pharmakon – Colour – Magic – Poison – Medicine), they traced the entanglements of commercial chemistry, pharmacy, natural history and art.
Thus, the intense yellow sulphur shown in our picture of the month not only has an antimicrobial effect, was not only traditionally used for various skin diseases as well as for coughs, it is one of the most important reactants for chemical processes. Without sulphuric acid, there would be no chemical industry.
The bluish crystals are vitriol (here the sulphate of copper containing water of crystallisation) from the Rammelsberg. The formation of mineral colours such as the toxic copper acetate arsenite (Schweinfurt green), a popular colour for walls, papers and textiles, which Vincent van Gogh also used in a self-portrait, is closely connected to vitriol. Other coloured compounds, such as Berlin blue, are considered essential medicines today as antidotes against certain poisons.
Even after the exhibition closed, the collection continued to be researched and, in particular, included in student projects. New themes can be unearthed. For example, with the topic “Medicine from the Mine”, which drew us deeper into the world of interaction between the natural environment and human trades. With the “Object of the Month” format, the collection regularly publicises new own and student research projects that shed light on special features of object and pharmaceutical history.
Pharmaceutical compositions from pearls
Pearls are presented as the object of the month for November in the Department of the History of Pharmacy. Concretions made of shells were a component of many medicinal compositions in the 16th to 18th centuries. Prepared into fine powders or small cones or as magisterium, they were usually used in combination with other substances.
They were introduced into medicinal therapy by Arab physicians. Margaritae orientales, East Indian pearls, or Margaritae occidentales, West Indian pearls, were used.
Cakes with pearls, pearl milk, master powder made of pearls, power potion with bezoar, dissolved pearls and coral are just some of the preparations that went from the court pharmacy to the Wolfenbüttel court in the 17th century, as the database “Arznei und Confect. Medicinal Culture at the Wolfenbüttel Court” reveals.
From the variety of usage of pearls until the end of the 18th century, only a few examples. Adam Lonitzer (1528 -1586) described the use of pearls to strengthen the heart, against heart tremors and dizziness. He propagated Manus Christi cum perlis (pearl sugar) for fainting. Pearls “are also good against bloody flux and dysentery.
They restrain the women’s time and make beautiful teeth.” More examples can be found on the History of Pharmacy pages in the “Object of the Month” format from the beginning of November.
The catalogue of the exhibition “Pharmakon – Farbe – Zauber – Gift – Arznei” (Pharmakon – Colour – Magic – Poison – Medicine) is currently being published and can be ordered from bookshops or requested from the authors.
Text: Prof. Bettina Wahrig und Dr. Anette Marquardt
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Pictures of previous months
Picture of the Month October 2023
A walk on a golden autumn day can be a lasting delight. For when cold rain drums against the windows on a grey day, the chestnuts collected during the walk and a few toothpicks can be used to make caterpillars, deer and co. Maximilian Vergin from the Institute of Semiconductor Technology at the TU Braunschweig had neither chestnuts nor toothpicks at hand. But he did have the know-how to produce microscopic nanowires from metal, complete with jewellery-like tips. What chance has concocted into nano chestnut animals is now our picture of the month for the fall. Read more
Picture of the Month September 2023
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Picture of the Month August 2023
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Picture of the Month July 2023
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Picture of the Month June 2023
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Picture of the Month May 2023
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Picture of the Month April 2023
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Picture of the month March 2023
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Picture of the month February 2023
Concrete can absorb compressive forces, but when bending moments and tensile forces occur, the material can crack. To prevent this, reinforcement is used, for example in a base plate when building a house, often made of steel in the form of meshes or cages. Reinforcement is also necessary in 3D printing with cementitious materials in order to create load-bearing structures. One of the greatest challenges in additive manufacturing, because the good old “rebar”, as the reinforcing steel is also called, is not used here. Instead, steel structures are imprinted or filigree metal strands are carried along in the concrete strand. Scientists at TU Braunschweig are also developing textile-based reinforcement strategies in the Collaborative Research Center Transregio 277 “Additive Manufacturing in Construction”. Read more
Picture of the month January 2023
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Picture of the month December 2022
When metallic materials are exposed to stresses such as high temperatures and tensions over a long period of time, changes occur in their microstructure. In turbine blades, these lead to potential material damage, but researchers from the Institute of Materials Science are taking advantage of precisely this mechanism. They are using it to produce nanoporous membranes made of a nickel base superalloy that could be used in pharmaceuticals. What these membranes look like under the microscope is shown in our picture of the month. Read more
Picture of the month November 2022
“Research in the process of becoming” – this is how professor Martin Geier describes his picture of the month. It shows an intermediate step on the way to a physically correct simulation of a falling concrete drop. The simulation should help to understand the behaviour of fluids with large density differences. This understanding can later be used to increase the stability of shotcrete structures. On the way to this goal, professor Geier’s team is still working on parameters such as viscosity and surface tension to adapt the simulation to real conditions. Read more
Picture of the month October 2022
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Picture of the month September 2022
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Picture of the month August 2022
Oregano makes people happy and insects too! – that could be the motto for our picture of the month. Oregano is an indispensable spice in Italian cuisine, but it also has numerous positive properties for humans and the environment. In the Medicinal Plant Garden of the Institute of Pharmaceutical Biology at Technische Universität Braunschweig, you can find not only the well-known Mediterranean oregano but also the native wild oregano. Read more
Picture of the month July 2022
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Picture of the month June 2022
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Picture of the month May 2022
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Picture of the month April 2022
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Picture of the month March 2022
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Picture of the month February 2022
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Picture of the month January 2022
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