The chemist: The history of a vanished occupational group, 1600-1820

Henk Vermande

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisInternal

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Chemist is an outdated Dutch word for ‘chemicus’ or ‘scheikundige’ (literally a person who masters the ‘art of separation’): someone who is knowledgeable on chemistry or who practices chemistry. Until the 19th century, the term chemist was also the name of an occupation in the Netherlands: it was someone who produced and sold chemicals, especially chemical medicines. He positioned himself for at least a century and a half (1670-1820) on the pharmaceutical market as an independent supplier of ‘chimicalia’ and medicines, alongside the apothecary and the druggist.
The dissertation maps the fascinating history of the rise, bloom and decline of the chemist occupation in the Netherlands and the centuries-long battle between apothecaries and chemists over (chemical) drug preparation.
The Dutch chemists’ occupation never achieved any institutionalization in the form of regulated training courses, a corporate organization, or a qualification structure. This may be one of the reasons that very little is known about Dutch chemists, and that the profession of chemist has fallen between the cracks in the historiography of pharmacy, chemistry, and medicine. This book tries to fill this knowledge gap.
The chemists had a common sign: the salamander-in-the-fire, emblem of the chemical preparation of medicines. With this sign, the chemists could distinguish themselves from the apothecaries with their mortar, the druggists with their gaper, and the distillers-brandy-burners with their stills. The origin of the salamander sign from alchemy is described in this book.
Translated title of the contributionThe chemist: The history of a vanished occupational group, 1600-1820
Original languageDutch
Awarding Institution
  • Maastricht University
  • Homburg, Ernst, Supervisor
Award date21 Oct 2021
Place of PublicationHilversum
Print ISBNs9789087049683
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • social history
  • pharmacy
  • chemistry
  • emblematics

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