Hermbstaedt, Sigismund Friedrich

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(b.Erfurt, Germany, 14 April 1760; d. Berlin, Germany, 22 October 1833),

chemistry, technology.

After attending St, Michaelis School and the Erfürt Gymnasium, Hermbstaedt studied medicine. Through contact with Wilhelm Bernhard Trommsdoff, however, he became so enthusiastic about chemistry that he decided to specialize in that field instead. He completed his training in chemistry under Trommsdorff’ son Johann Bartholomaus and earned a doctorate in chemistry. To increase his knowledge of the subject, Heermbstaedt attended J.C.Wiegleb’ school in Langensalza and and also worked in Wiegleb’ apothecary shop. e then became an assistant in the Ratsapotheke at Hamburg, owned by Johann Albert Reimarus; and in 1784-1785 he managed the SchwanApotheke in Berlin, which belonged toValentin Rose the elder. During this period Hermbstaedt became friendly with the chemist Klaproth, whose lectures he attended at the Medical-Surgical Colledge. At the same time, he was assisted in his career by Christian Gottlieb Selle, personal physician to the king of Prussia,and from privy councillor Christian Andteas Cothenius, the head of the Prussian madical administration.

When Valentin Rose the younger took over his father’s apothecary in 1785, Hermbstaet made an extended trip for professional purposes; it took him to the Harz Mountains, Thuringia,and the Saxon Erzgebrige. Especially important was his visit to Beckmann in Göttingen, who “awakened (his) taste for… technology and public finance and administration”.

After returning to Berlin, Hermbstaedt founded Magazin Fur die Technologie(1788). Two years earlier he had completed a volume of Physikalisch chemische Versuche und Beobachtungen,, which was followed by a second volume in 1789. He also collaborated on the Biblithothek der huesten physikalischen, chemischen, metallurgischen…und pharmaceutischen Literatur, a bibliographical work of which of he complied four volumes. In addition he reviewed books and translated foreign works.

In 1787 Hermbstaedt began to lecture privately, and he became an adviser to the Wegley chemical factories in Berlin. The following year he married Magdalene Rose, the daughter of his former employer,and founded a chemical boarding school for young men. Unfortunately,the firm of Wegley went out of business,and Hermbstaedt had to seek work elsewhere. He submitted an application to the king for the post of Dozent. To obtain it, how ever, he was “found not qualified”.

Shortly thereafter it was discovered that the court apothecary had been embezzling funds. He was dismissed,and the king ordered that a successor be found. Hios advisers recalled Hermbstaedt, who was invented to take an examination again. This time he was “found very capable” and was immediately appointed court apothecary (1790). In addition, he was given the tittle of professor (1791). Hermbstawedt took up his duties with great zeal. To facilitate his lecatures, he wrote the three-volume textbook Systematischer Grundriss der allgemeinen Experimentalchemie (1971). which was widely read. In this work the rejected stahl’s phlogisten theory; indeed he was the first Gherman chemist to do so. The following year he published an annotsted German translation of Lavoisier’s Traité élémentaire de chimie.

Hermbastaedt soon acquired an extraordinary reputation and was included among Germany’s; leading scholars. The number of his publications quickly reached one hundred,. He developed an unusal ablity to slove organizational problems and, according, was the rank of Obersänitatsrat. In the following year he obtained a professorship in Berlin at the Pépinière, a school for army physicians. He was fürther honored by being named apothecary to the General Staff and charged with organisizing the Purssian army’s entire apothecary service. His skill in the state archives in Mersburg, which include detailed questionnaires on every apothecary active at the time in Prussia.

In 1797 Hermbstaedt became assessor in the salt administration and, in 1808, full member of the Prussian Academy of Sciences, as well as member of the Technical Industrial and Trade committee. Eager to encourage higher professional standards among apothecaries, the collaborated on the first Prussian pharmacopoeia (1799) and on the Revidierte Apothekerordnung (18010. As the burden of his manifold activites became too great. Hermbstaedt retried as court apothecary and then gave up his bording school . The French conquest of Purssia terminated his duties as chief army apothecary.

Hermbastaedt’s greatest achievement lay in the field of technology. Upon the creation of the University of Berlin in 1810. the following committee voted unanimously to appoint him professor of technological chemistry. At his own request he lectured for as many as twenty-two twenty-four hours a week. In his first semester he gave a general course entitled “Summary of Technologically” and courses on “Technische, okonomische und medizinischen Gewerban”. In the summer semester of 1811 he lectured on general technological according to Beckmann and on chemistryas related to dyeing.

As a member the Technical Instustrical and Trade Commission, Hermbstaedrt frequently met industrialists, including many from outside Purssia. Though their publication of his many textbooks, he performed a valuable service for Purssian industry. Hids Grundriss der Thechnoogie (1814) which ran to almost 800 pages,was widely consulted by merchants ,factory owners, and officials, found themselves obliged to procure precise technical information. The court established in 1815 in Berlin to adjudicate disputes among factory owners and the government frequently drew upon Hermbustaedt’s writing in reaching its decisions.

Hermbstaedt’s activities were considerably reduced in 1813, when many of this students volunteered in the war of liberation against Napoleon. After the war the Prussian educational system was considerably expanded. Hermbstaedt was particularly eager to broaden the outlook of his students by taking them to visit factories. His attempt to institute practical sessions for students failed for lack of sufficient funds.

Hermbstaedt was able,however, to help in the realization of one important project in this area. In 1821 a group of official on the state board of trade set up a Society for the Encouragement of Industry in Prussia; it succeeded in lifting the economy from the nadir it had reached around 1815. Hermbstaedt headed the organization’s physics and chemistry group until his death.


I. Original Works . A fairly comprehensive list of Hermbstaedt’s writings may be copied from the Royal Society Cataligue of Scientific papers 111, 314-317; and v11, 961, which lists over 90 memories; Poggendoff, 1.1082-1083; md Harnack (see below).

Hermbstaedt’s early momographs iclude ntersucung des Milchzuckers (Berlin,1782); Bernsteinsaure (berlin,1784); Handbuch der pharmazeutischen prais [erlin],1784; physikalisch -chemische Versuchr and Beobachtungen, 2 vols. (berlin,1786-1789); Bibliothek der neuesten physikalisch-chemischen-metallurgischen-teachnologischen-and pharmaceitischen Literatur 4 vols. (Berlin, 1787-1795); systematische Grubindriss der allgemeien Experimentalchemie zu Gebrauch seiner Volesungen 3 vols. (Berlin, 1792-1793),2nd de., Grundriss der theoretischen and experimentallen Pharmacie, 2 vols. (Leipzifg , 1806); Katechismus der apothekerkunst(Berlin, 1792); Rede iiber en Zweck der ChemieBerlin, 1792); and kurze Anleitung Zur chemischen Zergliederung der Vegetabilien nach physikalisch chemischen Grundsäzen (1795-1799);2 nd ed., 1807), also in French trans. by Desertine.

Monographs published after 1800 include Grundriss der Färbekunst (Berlin, 1804),; chemish-technolo-gische grundsätze der Lohgerberei, 2nd vols. (Berlin, 1805-1807); Grundriss der experimentellen Kameral-chemie (Berlin,180);, Die Wissenschaft des seifesiedens (Berlin,1808); Anleitung Zur praktisch-ökonimischen Fabrikation des Zurckers aus den Runkelruben (Berlin,1811); Anleiting zur Fabrikation des Syrups and des Zuckers and Stärke (Berlin, 1814); chemische Grunndsätze der Kunst Bier zu brauen zu brauen (Berlin, 1814); Grundriss der Technologie (Berlin, 1814;2nd ed., 1829); Anleitung zur Kunst wollene. seidne, baumwollene and leinerne Zeuge Zu Bleichen (Berlin,1815); Gemeinnütziger Rathgeter für den Büurger and Landmann. 3 vols (erlin, 1816-1819); Chemische Grundsäze der Kunst Branntweinzu bernnen (Berlin,18170; and Chemische Grundsätze der Destillierkunst and liqueurfabrikation 9Berlin, 1819).

His translations and edition include Lavoisiers system der antiphologistischen Chemie, 2 vols.(Berlin,1792); Scheeles Sämtliche Werke, 2 vols.(Berlin, 1793); and haptals Chemie, 2 vols. (berlin, 1808).

Among the many peridicals to which hermbstaedt contributed are journal für Farber, Zeugdruckerber (1802-18030;, Magazin für Färber, egdrucker and Blechier (1802-1819); Archiv für Asgrikulturchemie (1803-1817); bulleetin des euesten and Merkwurdigsten aus der Naturwissenshaften (1809-1813; and Muséum des Neuesten and wissenwürdigsten aus dem Gebist der Naturwissenschaften (1814-1818).

His scientific contributions also appeared in Berlinisches jahrbuch der Pharmacie ; Chemische Annalen; journal der pharmacie für Aerzte and Apoteker;journal der ohysik, Neueste Enteckungen in der chemie; and physilalish-chemische Versuche and Beobachtun-gem. see esp. “Über die Erzegung der Essigsaure,” in Albhandlungen der PreussichennAkademie der Wissenscaften (1804-18110.11-20; and “Über diabetischen Urin,” ibid. (1814-1815),53-62.

II. Secondary Literature See G.E. Dann, “Klaproths wandlung zum Antiphlogistiker,” In Wissenschaftliche Zeitschrift der Karl-Marx-universität,Leipzig , 5 (1955-19560, 49-53; and Matin Heinrich Klaproph (berlin, 1958), passim; a. harnack, Geschichteder Könighch Pressischen Akademie der Wissenschaften Zu Berlin 111, (Berlin ,19000, 126-127. with bibliography of twenty-five of his papers published by the Prussian Academy of sciece; haude and Spenersche Zeitung 924 oct, 183); Intelligenzblätter der Allgemeinnen Literatur-zetung, no 98(Dec. 1833), 794-795; I.Meieck, in, Technik- geschite32 (1965), 325-382, with bibliography and [portrai; and G.E. Dann ,in Neuedeusche Biographie, V111(Berlin, 1969). 666-667].

GÜnther Kerstein