Schulze, Franz Ferdinand
SCHULZE, FRANZ FERDINAND
(b. Naumburg, Germany, 17 January 1815; d. Rostock, Germany, 15 April 1873)
Schulze’s career was centered principally around teaching agricultural chemistry at Eldena and chemistry and pharmacy at Rostock. Although his particular interests were wide-ranging, the core of much of his work was his expertise in analytical chemistry. He was not a great innovator but made a number of useful modifications to existing analytical techniques and equipment, such as in gas analysis and in the use of the blowpipe in the production of laboratory glassware (1).
Many of Schulze’s activities were in the field of applied science, for example his long paper (1868) on the examination of well water for “those particles which are most relevant in hygiene”(2). In this study, prompted by an outbreak of cholera in Rostock in 1866, Schulze included a judicious summary of the difficulties of interpreting the nature and significance of airborne organic matter. He thus contributed to the current, far-reaching debate on whether microorganisms could be spontaneously generated from, for example, the floating organic matter that was widely believed also to cause fermentation and putrefaction. Schulze indicated that much organic matter was harmless, but the difficulty lay in identifying that which was undoubtedly poisonous. He felt, too, that the latter might be synonymous with the “mysterious domain” of microorganisms, as was being suggested by Pasteur. Schulze’s interest in the subject of spontaneous generation of microorganisms extended back to 1836. At that time he demonstrated that after air was bubbled slowly through sulfuric acid, no growth of organisms occurred in a sterile culture medium through which the air was next passed (3). This carefully conducted experiment had considerable influence, for it was repeated frequently (sometimes with contradictory results) during the peak of controversy (from the late 1850’s to the 1870’s) over the question of spontaneous generation of microorganisms. It thus contributed significantly to the developing awareness of the experimental difficulties involved in handling microorganisms.
Although the title of Schulze’s paper suggested that it was a preliminary communication, he published nothing more on spontaneous generation and immersed himself in agricultural and chemical topics. Much of his chemistry involved natural products, including the difficult areas of lignins and carbohydrates (4). Although current chemical techniques limited what he could accomplish, some of his results on the chemical similarities of lignins from various sources, and on the properties of starch, were sound. Apart from his laboratory achievements, Schulze also contributed to education, including his translation into German (5) of J. F. W.Johnston’s Elements of Agricultural Chemistry and Geology (Edinburgh, 1841). Johnston was notably successful in stimulating interest in the application of science to agriculture, and Schulze wrote in his preface to the translation that “the more we [Germans] have reason to turn our attention to the practical sense and high level of development of [English] agriculture, the greater must be our trust in their judgment” (6). This comment—although apparently forgetting Liebig’s agricultural studies—was just, and it also illustrates Schulze’s own practical outlook.
Schulze’s writings include (1) “Die gasvolumetrische Analyse, als Hülfsmittel für wissenschaftliche agriculturchemische und technische Untersuchungen,” in Zeitschrift für analytische Chemie, 2 (1863), 289–300: and “Beschreiben eines für chemische Laboratorien anwendbaren gebläse Apparates,” in Journal fü praktische Chemie, 43 (1848), 368–372: (2) “Ueber die Untersuchung der Brunnenwässer auf diejenigen Bestandtheile, welche fü die Gesundheitspflege am meisten in betracht kommen,” in Dinglers polytechnisches Journal, 188 (1868), 197–219: (3) “Vorläusige Mittheilung resultate einer experimentallen Beobachtung über generation aequivoca,” in Annalen der Physik, 39 (1836), 487–489; (4) “Beitrag zur Kenntniss des Lignins,” in Chemisches Zentralblatt, n.s. 2 (1857), 321–325: and “Ueber die Metamorphose des Amylums,” in Annalen der Physik, 39 (1836), 489–493: (5) Anfangsgründe der praktischen Agricultur-Chemie und Geologie (Neubrandenburg, 1845): and (6) ibid., p. 4.
Schulze’s many publications are in a variety of journals. No comprehensive list has been compiled, but most of his works are referred to in F. Ferchl. Chemisch-pharmazeutisches Bio- und Bibliographikon (Mittenwald, 1938), 490. Some background to his teaching career, particularly at Rostock, is in R. Schmitz, Die Deutschen pharmaceutische chemischen Hochschulinstitute (Stuttgart, 1969).
J. K. Crellin