Reconstructing Liebig’s Laboratory

Reconstructing Liebig’s Laboratory at Fray Bentos (Uruguay)

Other involved Scholars: 

Ursula Klein, Jürgen Renn

Cooperation Partners: 

Universidad de la Republica de Uruguay

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Monument of Lemco.
Source: Lucia Lewowicz.

Lucia Lewowicz (with support by Ursula Klein and Jürgen Renn) explores the remains of Liebig’s laboratory located at the Fray Bentos Cultural-Industrial Landscape, which belongs to the Unesco World Heritage since 5 July 2015.

 

In 1859 the German engineer Georg Giebert and a German resident of the town of Fray Bentos (Uruguay), named August Hoffman, bought Justus Liebig’s patent to produce meat extract and subsequently established a factory for its production at Fray Bentos. Beginning in 1865, Liebig’s Extract of Meat Company Ltd (LEMCO) exported meat extract, corned-beef and fertilizers, produced from the meat residue, to the European and World market. LEMCO promoted the breeding of sheep and cattle in the region and had a significant impact on its commercial and industrial growth. It transformed Frey Bantos into a landmark of industrial globalization and the Industrial Revolution in South America.

In 1924 LEMCO was sold to the Frigorifico Anglo (Anglo Meat Factory), which exported frozen meat until the early 1970s, when it was closed down. The industrial buildings of Frigorifico Anglo, including original buildings and equipment of LEMCO, are a National Historical Monument of the Republic of Uruguay and belong to the Unesco World Heritage since 5 July 2015.

Liebig’s Extract of Meat Company included a chemical laboratory that had been designed by Liebig and was subsequently supported by him. Thus, in his Munich Laboratory, Liebig would test samples of meat extract produced in the LEMCO laboratory and continually consult his partners in Uruguay. Instruments, manuscripts and other objects from this laboratory have been preserved in a storage place at Fray Bantos, but were long unnoticed. Only recently, Lucia Lewowicz, professor and chair of the History and Philosophy of Science Department of the University of the Republic of Uruguay, has ben able to locate them. With support by the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science (Ursula Klein, Jürgen Renn) and the Humboldt Foundation, Lucia Lewowicz aims to reconstruct Liebig’s laboratory to become part of the National Historical Monument of Fray Bantos. The second goal of her project is the historical reconstruction of the research and teaching activities at the LEMCO laboratory and of Liebig’s involvement in these activities. The latter part of the project will contribute to the broader history of the globalization of knowledge and scientific research practices in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.