- Friedrich Accum
name = Friedrich Accum
image_size = 250px
caption = From the "European Magazine" (1820) engraving by James Thomson.
birth_date = birth date|mf=yes|1769|03|29
death_date = death date and age|mf=yes|1838|06|28|1769|03|29
Royal Institution, Surrey Institution, Gas Light and Coke Company, Gewerbeinstitut, Bauakademie
Friedrich Christian Accum or Frederick Accum (March 29, 1769 – June 28, 1838) was a German
chemist, whose most important achievements were in the areas of gas lighting, the fight against poisonous foods, and the popularizing of chemistry. Following an apprenticeshipas an apothecary, Accum lived in London from 1793 and 1821, where, as a self-employed chemist, he manufactured and sold chemical and scientific instruments, gave fee-based public lectures in practical chemistry, and collaborated with various research institutions.
Incited by Frederick Winsor, who had been promoting the foundation of a company for the introduction of gas lighting in London, Accum became involved in the topic of gas lighting himself. At the behest of the
Gas Light and Coke Company, he carried out many experiments on this subject and in 1812 became a member of the board of the same company. The use of gas lighting in both private and public contexts spread through the establishment of the first large scale gas plant, in whose design Accum had been instrumental.
His publications, most of which were written in English, are in a style accessible to the general public of the period. Accum in this way made important contributions to the popularization of chemistry in the period. In 1820, Accum published "Treatise on Adulteration of Food", in which he denounced the use of poisoned foodstuffs. The work marked the beginning of a concern with nutrition. Accum was the first person to tackle the subject and to reach a wide audience with his work. Although his book sold extremely well, his attempts to raise public awareness in these areas made him many enemies among London foodstuff purveyors. Accum left England after a lawsuit was brought against him. He lived out the rest of his life as a teacher at an industrial institution in Berlin.
Life and work
Youth and education
Accum was born in Bückeburg,
Schaumburg-Lippe, [about convert|50|km|mi|abbr=on west of Hanover. His father was from Vlotho an der Weser, and had been in an infantry regiment in the service of Count Wilhelm von Schaumburg-Lippe. In 1755, Accum's father converted from Judaismto Protestant Christianity. Soon after, he married Judith Berth La Mottein in Bückeburg. His wife was the daughter of a hat maker who was part of the French community in Berlin, and the granddaughter of a refugee of the Hugenot persecutions in France. [Cole, "Friedrich Accum", p. 128]
With his baptism, Accum changed his name from Markus Herz to Christian Accum. In addition to choosing the name "Christian", which means "follower of Christ", Accum's father chose to emphasize his conversion by adopting the surname Accum, which was derived from the Hebrew word "Akum", meaning "not-Jewish". It is not known whether he did this on his own initiative or because of pressure from his fiancee's family. In any case, after his marriage, Christian Accum became an independent shopkeeper and soap-maker, based at first at the house of his inlaws' in Bückeburg at 141 Schulstraße. He received citizenship in the city nine years after his marriage. ["Bürgerbuch der Stadt Bückeburg", Entry on February 22, 1764 cited in Browne, "The life and chemical services of Frederick Accum", p. 831.] On May 9, 1772, three years after Accum's birth, his father Christian Accum died, at the age of 45.
Friedrich Accum attended the Bückeburg Gymnasium Adolfinum and also received private tutelage in French and English. After his schooling, he finished an apprenticeship as an
apothecarywith the Brande family in Hanover, who were friends of the Accums. [Cole, "Friedrich Accum", p. 129, supposes that Judith Accum had good connections.] The Brands also had a branch office in London and were the apothecaries to the Hanoverian King of England, George III. [About the Brande family as apothecaries to the English court, see Leslie G. Matthews, "London’s Immigrant Apothecaries, 1600–1800", in: Medical History 18, 3 (1974), [http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/picrender.fcgi?artid=1081579&blobtype=pdf available online] as PDF, p. 262–274, here p. 269f.] London, as an important centre of scientific work at the end of the 18th century, was to be very attractive for young, scientifically inclined people from all over Europe. [Christa Jungnickel and Russell McCormmach "Cavendish" (American Philosophical Society:Philadelphia) 1996, p. 68] Friedrich Accum went there in 1793 and worked as an assistant in the Brande apothecary in Arlington Street.
The first year in London
After working as an apothecary with Brand's office, Accum pursued scientific studies and attended medical lectures at the School of Anatomy in Great Windmill Street. He made contact with the surgeon
Anthony Carlisle(1768–1842) and the London chemist William Nicholson (1753–1815), in whose journal ( Nicholson’s Journal) [Actual name is "Journal of Natural Philosophy, Chemistry and the Arts".] he published his first article in 1798. On May 10, 1798 Accum married Mary Ann Simpson (March 6, 1777–March 1, 1816 in London). He had, in the intervening period, anglicized his name to "Frederick Accum". They had eight children in all, but only two survived past childhood.
In the fall of 1799, a translation of Franz Carl Achard's ground-breaking work on the production of sugar from beets appeared in Nicholson’s Journal. Up until then, sugar cane which was grown overseas was the only plant from which sugar could be made. As this made possible the creation of a domestic sugar industry, it was greeted with great interest. A short time after the article's publication, Accum had samples of sugar beet sent from Berlin, and presented them to William Nicholson. They were the first sugar beets to arrive in England, and Nicholson published a detailed report of his investigations in the January edition of his journal, in which he established that sugar from beets was as good in taste as sugar from sugarcane. [Browne, "The life and chemical services of Frederick Accum", p. 834.]
Laboratory worker, merchant and private tutor
In 1800, Accum and his family moved from 17 Haymarket to 11
Old Compton Street, where he was to live for the next twenty years, and which, in addition to serving as his house, was also a school, a laboratory where he performed experiments, and a store for chemicals and scientific instruments. On his business cards, which Accum used to advertise his services, he described his activities as follows:
Mr Accum acquaints the Patrons and Amateurs of Chemistry that he continues to give private Courses of Lectures on Operative and Philosophical Chemistry, Practical Pharmacy and the Art of Analysis, as well as to take Resident Pupils in his House, and that he keeps constantly on sale in as pure a state as possible, all the Re-Agents and Articles of Research made use of in Experimental Chemistry, together with a complete Collection of Chemical Apparatus and Instruments calculated to Suit the conveniences of Different Purchasers. [Cole, "Friedrich Accum", p. 129f. 1951. This cards was in the "Banks Collection" in the "Department of Prints and Drawings" in
British Museumwhen Cole published his work.]
Accum distributed a catalog of his wares from his Old Compton Street store and also sent it to other cities in England and abroad when requested.
Accum's laboratory in Old Compton Street was for many years the only institution in England in which, in addition to theoretical lectures on chemistry, training in laboratory practice was also provided. Accum's teaching attracted, at least in part, a prominent audience. His listeners included the well-known London politician and later prime minister
Lord Palmerston, the Duke of Bedford, and the Duke of Northumberland. In addition, Accums' laboratory was the first in Europe to be visited by students and scientists from the United States, among which were Benjamin Sillimanand William Dandridge Peck. When Silliman later became Professor of chemistry at Yale College(precursor to Yale University) in New Haven, he ordered his first laboratory equipment from Accum in London. Accum's biographer, Charles Albert Browne, surmised in his 1925 work that some of the older American colleges still have sales receipts from Accum's London business. [Browne, "The life and chemical services of Frederick Accum", p. 842.]
With the development of new laboratory apparatus, Accum positioned himself in mid-market with respect to cost and usability. Amateurs could also perform simple chemical investigations in his establishment. Accum developed portable laboratory kits, intended for farmers, for the analysis of soils and stones. For prices ranging from three to eighty
pounds sterling, these chests were the first truly portable laboratories. [Browne, "The life and chemical services of Frederick Accum", p. 845.]
Teacher and researcher
In March 1801, Frederick Accum was offered a position at the
Royal Institutionin Ablemarle Street, a research institute founded two years earlier by Count Rumford. [About the early history of the "Royal Institution", see Morris Berman, "The Early Years of the Royal Institution 1799–1810: A Re-Evaluation", in: Science Studies 2, 3 (1972), S. 205–240.] He worked there as a laboratory assistant under Humphry Davy, who had been hired at same time as director of the laboratory, and would later become the president of the Royal Society. Accum’s employment at the Royal Institution was, however, not extended, as he left on his own initiative in September 1803. His biographer, R. J. Cole, conjectures that there was a connection with the contemporary departure for Paris of Count Rumford, who would marry Marie Lavoisier, the widow of famous chemist, Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier. Rumford had been the motivating force behind Accum’s hiring by the Royal Institution, and hence the possible connection with Accum’s exit. [Cole, "Friedrich Accum", S. 130.]
Up to 1803, Accum published a series of articles in "
Nicholson’s Journal", which spanned a wide array of subjects: from investigating the possibility of determining the purity of medicines, to the existence of benzoic acids in vanilla extract, to observations about the explosivity of sulphur-phosphorus mixtures. [Cole, "Friedrich Accum", p. 131 lists "On the Separation of Argillaceous Earth from Magnesia", in: Journal of Natural Philosophy, Chemistry and the Arts 2 (1798), p. 2; "An Attempt to Discover the Genuineness and Purity of Drugs and Medicinal Preparations", in: Journal of Natural Philosophy, Chemistry and the Arts 2 (1798), p. 118; "A Historical Note on the Antiquity of the Art of Etching on Glass", in: Journal of Natural Philosophy, Chemistry and the Arts 4 (1800), p. 1–4; "The Occurrence of Benzoic Acid in Old Vanilla Pods", in: Journal of Natural Philosophy, Chemistry and the Arts 1 (1802), p. 295–302; "Analysis of New Minerals such as the so called Salt of Bitumen, the Bit-Nobin of the Hindoos", in: Journal of Natural Philosophy, Chemistry and the Arts 5 (1803), p. 251–255; "On Egyptian Heliotropium", in: Journal of Natural Philosophy, Chemistry and the Arts 6 (1803), p. 65–68; "Experiments and Observations on the Compound of Sulphur and Phosphorus and the dangerous Explosions it makes when exposed to Heat", in: Journal of Natural Philosophy, Chemistry and the Arts 6 (1803), p. 1–7.] Of far greater significance was the 1803 publication of his System of Theoretical and Practical Chemistry. Cole, Accum's biographer, states that "it was the first text-book of general chemistry written in the English language to be based on Lavoisier's new principles; it is outstanding, also, in that it is written in a popular style, the subject matter being graduated as with a modern text-book." [Cole, "Friedrich Accum", p. 130.]
Accum held his first lecture on chemistry and mineralogy in a small room in his house on Old Compton Street. His audience, however, grew so rapidly that he soon had to rent the Medical Theatre in Cork Street. Such was the interest among Londoners for Accum’s lectures that, after his resignation from the Royal Institution, he took a position at the Surrey Institution on Blackfriars Road. An advertisement in "
The Times" on January 6, 1809 indicates that Accum offered a course on mineralogy and the chemical analysis of metals every Wednesday evening. [Cole, "Friedrich Accum", p. 132 citing the notice. It appeared in "The Times" on January 6, 1809, Nr. 7562.]
His increasing interest in mineralogy at this time is also apparent from the titles of two books which he authored between 1803 and 1809. The first was a two volume work which appeared in 1804 entitled "A Practical Essay on the Analysis of Minerals" and was subsequently reissued in 1808 as "A Manual of Analytical Mineralogy". In 1809 he published "Analysis of a Course of Lectures on Mineralogy". While at the "Surrey Institution", Accum also published, beginning in 1808, a series of articles on the chemical properties and composition of
mineral waterin Alexander Tilloch's "Philosophical Journal". [Cole, "Friedrich Accum", p. 132]
In 1811, when the Parisian
saltpetremanufacturer Bernard Courtoismade iodinefor the first time from the kelpash, his discovery was greeted with great interest by experts. Accum was among the first chemists in England to undertake experiments to isolate iodine. In two articles published in Tilloch's "Philosophical Journal" in January and February 1814, Accum described the iodine content of different kinds of seaweed and gave a detailed account of a process which could be used for iodine production. [Browne, "The life and chemical services of Frederick Accum", p. 851.]
Accum's role in the history of gaslight
The industrial development of the late 18th and early 19th centuries was by and large independent of any sort of artificial lighting. Lighting a textile factory with candles or oil lamp meant an enormous expenditure, which was simply not possible on economic grounds. With the advent of industrial means of production, new textile halls were not only physically larger, but also had to be lit brighter and for longer. Driven by a great demand, and made possible through Lavoisier's theoretical work regarding the role of oxygen in combustion, the end of the 18th century saw a continuous series of improvements in lighting technology. [Schivelbusch, "Lichtblicke", p. 16f.]
The production of gases from coal had been observed by Henry Clayton in a letter to
Robert Boylein the 17th century. The letter was only published in the "Philosophical Transactions" of the "Royal Society" in 1739. Clayton wrote:
I then got some Coal from one of the Pits nearest thereunto, which I distilled in a Retort in an open Fire. At first there came over only Phlegm, afterwards a black Oil, and then likewise a Spirit arose, which I could noways condense, but it forced my Lute, or broke my Glasses. Once, when it had forced the Lute, coming close thereto, in order to try to repair it, I observed that the Spirit which issued out caught Fire at the Flame of the Candle, and continued burning with Violence as it issued out, in a Stream, which 1 blew out, and lighted again, alternately, for several times. [Schivelbusch, "Disenchanted Night", p. 15.]
This sort of knowledge did not, however, find any practical application until the end of the 18th century. The gas produced during the coking of coal was allowed to escape unused until
William Murdockbegan to promote coal gas as an illuminant. Other such experiments had been done by, for example, George Dixon in 1780 in Cockfield, Jean-Pierre Minckelersin 1785 in Louvain, Archibald Cochrane in 1787 at his estate Culross Abbey, but these were all limited in extent. The true prototype for later gasworks was first constructed in 1802 at the Soho Foundryand in 1805 at George Lee's cottonmill in Salfordclose to Manchester. However, the skepticism faced by the new technology was great. As late as 1810 Murdock was asked in a committee of the House of Commons: "Do you mean to tell us that it will be possible to have a light without a wick?" [Cited in Schivelbusch, "Lichtblicke", p. 22] It took until the second decade of the 19th century before gaslight spread from industrial mills to urban street lighting and domestic lighting. Accum played a crucial role in this development. [Browne, "The life and chemical services of Frederick Accum", p. 1021.]
Accum became involved with the production of gas for lighting purposes through the efforts of
Friedrich Albert Winsor(1763–1830), another German émigré, who had been waging a multiyear publicity campaign. In 1809 Accum was called before a Parliamentary committee looking into granting a charter for a gaslight company Winsor had been promoting. While unsuccessful in its first attempt, the bill passed in 1810 and the company was incorporated under the name "Gas Light and Coke Company". [Accum's testimony was on May 5 and May 6, 1809 before a committee of the House of Commons. His testimony is reprinted in Browne, "The life and chemical services of Frederick Accum", p. 1009−1011.] The company met the conditions laid out in the bill and began operating in 1812 with Accum as a member of the board. Accum directed the construction of a gas plant on Curtain Road, which was the first such plant in the history of gaslight. From then on, gaslight was no longer limited to industrial mills and was introduced into urban life. Westminster Bridge was lighted with gas lamps in 1813, and a year later, streets in Westminster itself. In 1815, Accum published "Description of the Process of Manufacturing Coal-Gas". In the introduction, Accum compared the newly formed gas utility with the water companies that had been operating in London since the early 18th century: "Through gas, it will be possible to have light in all rooms, as is presently the case with water." When this book was translated into German in Berlin in 1815, an explanatory note had to be added, as no such water utilities existed there: "There are many private homes in England which are provided with pipes in the walls so that in almost all rooms, all one needs to do to get water is open a faucet." [For the German edition see: "Praktische Abhandlung über die Gaserleuchtung", Ausgabe Berlin o. J. (1815), cited by Schivelbusch, "Lichtblicke", p. 33.]
In London in 1814 there was a single gasometer of m3 to ft3 | 400 | abbr=yes | precision=0, but by 1822, there were already four gas companies, whose gasometers had a total combined volume of almost a million ft3 [Schivelbusch, "Lichtblicke", p. 36.] In order to keep the mains as short as possible the gas plants were set up in the city districts where the gas was consumed. The incursion of chemical plants of this sort into inhabited parts of the city provoked public criticism of the new technology. These were especially fierce once explosions occurred and were also directed towards poisonous effluent from plants. [See Schivelbusch, "Lichtblicke", p. 38–44.] Accum, who by this point was a leading proponent of gaslight in addition to his work as a chemist, strongly refuted these criticisms in his own writings. Through careful analysis he showed that on the whole, accidents were caused by carelessness rather than problems with the technology, and were avoidable. [Browne, "The life and chemical services of Frederick Accum", p. 1013.]
Accum had from an early time been concerned with the byproducts of coal gas production, which included tar and sulphur compounds. These were typically buried or dumped into nearby watercourses. The ammonium and sulphur compounds were especially damaging to the environment. In 1820 Accum began demanding legislative intervention to prevent the unmitigated disposal of these byproducts. [Akos Paulinyi, "Gasanstalten – die Großchemie in Wohnvierteln", in: Akos Paulinyi / Ulrich Troitzsch, "Mechanisierung und Maschinisierung 1600 bis 1840", (Propyläen:Berlin) 1991, p. 423–428, see p. 427.] There was, however, relatively little political movement in response as gas explosions of various sizes drew far more attention than long term environmental degradation from poisonous byproducts of gas production.
"There is death in the pot"
In 1820 Accum began the public struggle against poisoned and harmful foodstuffs with his book entitled "A Treatise on Adulterations of Food and Culinary Poisons". Food additives derived from plants, putatively as preservatives or to alter tastes or appearance, had already been in use for a long time. With the advent at the beginning of the 19th century of industrial means to prepare foods, this practice spread to become a pressing problem. The production and distribution of foodstuffs, which until then had been a predominantly personal affair between the producer and his customers, became an increasingly centralized process. Scientific research in chemistry and the absence of laws protecting consumers made it possible for unscrupulous merchants to develop and introduce new and untested additives into foodstuffs. [Owen R. Fennema: "Food additives – an unending controversy", in: The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 46 (1987), p. 201–203, see p. 201, [http://www.ajcn.org/cgi/reprint/46/1/201.pdf available online] as a PDF.] Accum was the first to take up this subject and to reach a wide audience with his publicity. [Browne, "The life and chemical services of Frederick Accum", p. 1028.]
A thousands copies of "A Treatise on Adulterations of Food and Culinary Poisons" were sold within a month of its publication. ["Von der Verfälschung der Nahrungsmittel und von den Küchengiften", Leipzig 1822, Preface to the second edition, p. xxiii.] A second run was printed in the same year, and a German translation was printed in Leipzig two years later. The book's cover shows that Accum was capable of using dramatic imagery to try to draw attention to his scientific knowledge. It featured a rectangular frame supporting a spider's web and surrounded by intertwined snakes. A spider lurks in the middle of the web over its prey, and a skull crowns the entire collection with a caption beneath it, taken from the
Old Testament: "There is death in the pot." [ 2 Kings, 4:40;]
The various chapters of the book alternate between harmless forgeries such as mixing dried pea grounds in coffee, and much more dangerous contamination by truly poisonous substances. Accum explained to his readers that there was a high
leadcontent in Spanish olive oil, caused by the lead containers used to clear the oil, and recommended using oil from other countries such as France and Italy, where this was not practiced. ["Von der Verfälschung der Nahrungsmittel und von den Küchengiften", Leipzig 1822, p. 222f.] He warned against bright green sweetssold by itinerant merchants in the streets of London as the colour was produced with "sapgreen", a colorant with high copper content. ["Von der Verfälschung der Nahrungsmittel und von den Küchengiften", Leipzig 1822, p. 214f.] " Vinegar", he explained to his readers, "was frequently mixed with sulphuric acidin order to increase its acidity." ["Von der Verfälschung der Nahrungsmittel und von den Küchengiften", Leipzig 1822, p. 211.]
Accum paid particular attention to
beer, introducing the subject with the comment: "Malt beverages, and especially port, the preferred drink of the inhabitants of London and other large cities, is among the items which is most frequently adulterated in the course of supply." ["Von der Verfälschung der Nahrungsmittel und von den Küchengiften", Leipzig 1822, p. 97.] He claimed that English beer was occasionally mixed with molasses, honey, vitriol, pepper and even opium. Among the most shocking customs he pointed out was the practice of adding fishberries, part of the Menispermaceaefamily, to port. It became evident during the French Revolutionary Warsthat the practice was getting out of hand, and Accum attributed the intoxicating power of the drink to the addition of this plant matter. ["Von der Verfälschung der Nahrungsmittel und von den Küchengiften", Leipzig 1822, p. 104f.] Accum used various sources to substantiate his claims. As evidence for his claims about Cocculus indicus he used, among others, import statistics, which he complemented with observations about when the price of Cocculus indicus from commodity price lists of brewing materials merchants increased. He also looked at historic price trends for the same commodities.
The "Treatise on Adulterations of Food and Culinary Poisons" has two further notable characteristics. First, like Accum's earlier writings, it was written with descriptions of the simple techniques of analytical chemistry he employed, thereby making them more accessible to his readers. He wanted to make every test repeatable in the simplest possible way by a non-expert. Accum wrote in the foreword to his first edition:
In stating the experimental proceedings necessary for the detection of the frauds which it has been my object to expose, I have confined myself to the task of pointing out such operations only as may be performed by persons unacquainted with chemical science ; and it has been my purpose to express all necessary rules and instructions in the plainest language, divested of those recondite terms of science, which would be out of place in a work intended for general perusal. ["Treatise on Adulterations of Food and Culinary Poisons", London 1820, p. v.]
The second characteristic was that Accum did not limit his campaign to simply exposing problems. At the end of every chapter, he included names of merchants of who had in years prior to 1820 been caught adulterating foodstuffs. In this way, Accum tried to deprive them of business and thereby had an effect on the London economy. [Browne, "The life and chemical services of Frederick Accum", p. 1032.]
Reaction to "Treatise on Adulterations of Food"
Accum was well aware before the publication of his book that mentioning specific names from London's business world would provoke a resistance and a possibly a severe reaction. In the foreword to the first edition he called the publication of the names of those adulterating foodstuffs an "invidious office" and a "painful duty" [Accum, "A Treatise on Adulterations of Food and Culinary Poisons" (1820) p. iv-v] which he undertook as a verification for his statements. Although he further stated that he "carefully avoided citing any, except those which are authenticated in Parliamentary documents and other records, [Accum, "A Treatise on Adulterations of Food and Culinary Poisons" (1820) p. v] this did not save him from drawing the ire of his opponents. By the time the second edition appeared, he mentioned in the foreword that he had received threats. At the same time, this did not stop him from putting "the unwary on their guard" against the deceits of unscrupulous men. He further added that he wished to notify his hidden enemies that in the text he would proceed to report for posterity those crimes which these swindlers and their base associates had been found guilty of in public justice. That is, of having made poisonous the basic foodstuffs. ["Von der Verfälschung der Nahrungsmittel und von den Küchengiften", Leipzig 1822, p. xxiv.]
candal and lawsuit
The process which ultimately led to Accum's departure from England and his return to Germany began a few months after the publication of his book on the poisoning of foodstuffs. For a long time, many contradictory accounts have been given of the exact circumstances of his exile. Finally in 1951, Cole, in an addendum to the minutes of "Royal Institution", proved that the presentation of the events adopted in the article in the "
Dictionary of National Biography", ["Dictionary of National Biography", (Smith, Elder, & Co.:London), Vol. 1, London 1885] and also later in the "Allgemeinen Deutschen Biographie" [Alphons Oppenheim, "Friedrich Christian Accum", in: Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie, (Historische Commission bei der Königl. Akademie der Wissenschaften:Lepzig) Vol. 1, p. 27, [http://mdz.bib-bvb.de/digbib/lexika/adb/images/adb001/@ebt-link?target=idmatch(entityref,adb0010043) available online] from the Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek Munich.] (according to which Accum was embroiled in charges of embezzlement as librarian of the "Royal Institution" and escaped to Germany), did not correspond to the facts.
Cole completely reprinted the minutes of an extraordinary meeting of the Royal Institution of December 23, 1820, [Cole, "Friedrich Accum", p. 137f.; ref. Minutes 1 and 2 of the extraordinary meeting of the Royal Institution on December 23, 1820, chaired by vice-president
Charles Hatchett] which show that these events were initiated through an observation made by a librarian of the Royal Institution named Sturt. Sturt reported to his superiors that on November 5, 1820, a number of pages were removed from books in the reading room of the institution, books which Accum had read. On the instructions of his superiors, Sturt cut a small hole in the wall of the reading room to watch Accum from an adjoining room. On the evening of December 20th, as recorded in the minutes, Sturt could see Accum tear out and walk off with a paper concerning the ingredients and uses of chocolate. The paper had been in an issue of "Nicholson’s Journal". Accum's premises on Old Compton Street were searched on the order of a magistrate for the City of London, and torn pages were indeed discovered there. These could be matched to books belonging to the Royal Institution.
The Magistrate after hearing the whole of the Case observed that however valuable the books might be from which the leaves found in Mr Accum’s house had been taken, yet the leaves separated from them were only waste paper. If they had weighed a pound he would have committed him for the value of a pound of waste paper, but this not being the case he discharged him. [Cole, "Friedrich Accum", p. 138.]
The Royal Institution committee that met on December 23, 1820 was not, however, satified with this judgment, and decided to take further legal action against Accum. On January 10, 1821, an open letter directed to Earl Spencer, the president of the Institution, appeared in "
The Times" defending Accum. [ The TimesNumber 11140, January 10, 1821, p. 3, as surety. [From the minutes of the "Royal Institution": "Mr Accum thereupon appeared in Court with his two Sureties Randolph [sic!] Ackermann of the Strand, Publisher, and John Papworth of Bath Place New Road, Architect, and entered into the usual Recognizances himself in £200, and the Sureties in £100 each." Cole, "Friedrich Accum", p. 140f.] Accum did not make an appearance at the court session. He had fled England and returned to Germany.
Return to Germany
In the two years before his return to Germany, Accum had published a number of books dealing with nutrition chemistry. In 1820, he published two works, one on beer production ("A Treatise on the Art of Brewing)" and another on wine ("A Treatise on the Art of Making Wine)". The following year appeared "Culinary Chemistry", in which Accum provided practical information about the scientific basis of cooking. He also published a book on bread ("A Treatise on the Art of Making Good and Wholesome Bread)". Even when he had returned to Germany, his works continued to be reprinted and were translated into French, Italian and Germany, reaching a wide readership in Europe, as well as in the US after it was reprinted there. [Browne, "The life and chemical services of Frederick Accum", p. 1022-4, 1145.]
Immediately upon his arrival in Germany, Accum went to the town of Althaldensleben. There, the industrialist
Johann Gottlob Nathusiushad acquired various estates and was using them to found a sprawling industrial settlement. Nathusius was a German pioneer in the field of sugar production from beets, and had established a factory for its production in that town between 1813 and 1816. It was probably Nathusius’ extensive library and chemical laboratory that drew Accum. He remained only a short time in Althaldensleben, however, as he soon got a professorship at the Gewerbeinstitutand the Bauakademiein Berlin. His teaching in the areas of physics, chemistry, and mineralogy, were collected in the two volume work, "Physische und chemische Beschaffenheit der Baumaterialien, deren Wahl, Verhalten und zweckmässige Anwendung", published in Berlin in 1826. It was the only work Accum published originally in German. [Browne, "The life and chemical services of Frederick Accum", p. 1144-5.]
A few years after settling down in Berlin, Accum had a notable house built at 16 Marienstraße (later 21 Marienstraße), where he dwelt until his death. During his last years, he suffered from a bad case of
gout , which ultimately led to his death. His illness took a serious turn for the worse in June 1838, and he rapidly deteriorated. On June 28, approximately 16 years after he return to Germany, Accum died at the age of 69 in Berlin. He was buried there at the Dorotheenstädtischen Friedhof. [Hans-Jürgen Mende: "Lexikon Berliner Grabstätten", (Haude & Spener:Berlin) 2006, ISBN 3-7759-0476-X, p. 14.]
Bibliography and primary sources
The first biographical sketch of Friedrich Accum's life was written by the American agricultural chemist and historian of science
Charles Albert Browne, Jr.in 1925. He studied the life and works of Accum closely for ten years, which he was able to complement with information from civil and ecclesiastical sources in Bückeburg. His enthusiasm for the subject was so great that he traveled to Germany in July 1930 to meet with Hugo Otto Georg Hans Westphal (August 26, 1873-September 15, 1934), a great-grandson of Accum's. Brown's last writing on the subject, which appeared in 1948 in "Chymia", a journal for the history of chemistry, relied to a great extent on the information he gathered from Hugo Westphal. Three years later, R. J. Cole published an outline of Accum's life based on English sources. He was particularly concerned with bringing new information to light about the judicial process of 1821. Like Browne, Cole also provided relatively little data about the last part of Accum's life, which he spent in Berlin. A modern presentation about Accum's life and works which fills in the lacuna in the hitherto available biographies has not yet been written. Lawson Cockroft of the "Royal Society of Chemistry" in London observed that Friedrich Accum was one of those chemists who, despite significant achievements in his lifetime, was by and large forgotten today. [ cite web|url=http://www.rsc.org/Library/LICHelp/HistoricalChemistry/Thereisdeathinthepot/WhyisAccumimportant.asp|title="Why is Accum important?"|accessdate=2008-04-01 |last=Cockroft|first=Lawson|publisher=Royal Society of Chemistry"Fredrick Accum is representative of a chemist who is largely forgotten these days but nevertheless contributed to important changes in society […] ".]
Probably the best known pictorial representation of Accum was an
engravingby James Thomsonmade in July 1820 for the English journal " European Magazine". It shows Accum sitting at a table close to a gas lamp. Thomson's engraving was probably based on an oil painting by the London portrait painter Samuel Drummond(1765–1844), who had shown Accum in a similar pose in a painting produced a few years prior to this. In addition, Accum's brother-in-law, the artist Wilhelm Strack, painted an oil portrait which shows Accum as a young man.
A few letter fragments and documents relating to Accum still exist in his family's possession. A certificate from the "Gesellschaft naturforschender Freunde" (society of natural philosophical friends), based in Berlin and granting honorary membership to Accum, dated November 1, 1814, was made available online in 2006. [ [http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/
] at Wikimedia Commons.] A letter from Accum written in London and addressed to his brother Philipp in Bückeburg, about life in London after the end of the
Napoleonic Wars, is also available online at Wikisource. [ [http://de.wikisource.org/wiki/Friedrich_Accum_an_Philipp_Ernst_Accum_%2826._April_1816%29 Friedrich Accum to Philipp Ernst Accum (26. April 1816)] in the German language Wikisource.]
* "System of Theoretical and Practical Chemistry", London 1803 Vol 1, [cite web|url=http://books.google.com/books?id=kp0IAAAAIAAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=editions:001AtwwGLTfUafVLbkL#PPP11,M1|title="System of Theoretical and Practical Chemistry"|accessdate=2008-04-01|publisher=Google books] Vol 2 [cite web|url=http://books.google.com/books?id=iJwIAAAAIAAJ&printsec=toc&source=gbs_summary_r&cad=0#PPR1,M1|title="System of Theoretical and Practical Chemistry"|accessdate=2008-04-01|publisher=Google books] Second edition 1807; Reprint Philadelphia 1808 Vol 1 [cite web|url=http://books.google.com/books?id=0Fw3AAAAMAAJ&pg=PA1#PPR1,M1|title="System of Theoretical and Practical Chemistry"|accessdate=2008-04-01|publisher=Google books] Vol 2, [cite web|url=http://books.google.com/books?id=T0E3AAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover|title="System of Theoretical and Practical Chemistry"|accessdate=2008-04-01|publisher=Google books] Second edition 1814 Vol 1 [cite web|url=http://books.google.com/books?id=OnQ3AAAAMAAJ&pg=PA1#PPR1,M1|title="System of Theoretical and Practical Chemistry"|accessdate=2008-04-01|publisher=Google books] Vol 2 [cite web|url=http://books.google.com/books?id=C2k3AAAAMAAJ&pg=PA1#PPP5,M1|title="System of Theoretical and Practical Chemistry"|accessdate=2008-04-01|publisher=Google books]
* "A Practical Essay on the Analysis of Minerals", London 1804; Reprint Philadelphia 1809; [cite web|url=http://books.google.com/books?id=k-0MAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA26&ei=3ILAR6WNCJy8zATWnNiqCA#PPR3,M1|title="A Practical Essay on the Analysis of Minerals"|accessdate=2008-04-01|publisher=Google books] and a new edition expanded to two volumes in 1808 with the title "A Manual of Analytical Mineralogy"
* "An Analysis of a Course of Lectures on Mineralogy", London 1809, expanded edition in 1810 under the title "A Manual of a Course of Lectures on Experimental Chemistry and Mineralogy"
* "Descriptive Catalogue of the Apparatus and Instruments Employed in Experimental and Operative Chemistry, in Analytical Chemistry, and in the Pursuits of the Recent Discoveries of Electro-Chemical Science", London 1812
* "Elements of Crystallography", London 1813 [cite web|url=http://books.google.com/books?id=v_8JAAAAIAAJ&printsec=frontcover&lr=&ei=3YPAR-TbNJzUzATE6umrCA|title="Elements of Crystallography"|accessdate=2008-04-01|publisher=Google books]
* "Practical Treatise on Gas-Light", London 1815, went through four English editions to 1818, rewritten with the title "Description of the Process of Manufacturing Coal-Gas. For the lighting of streets, houses, and public buildings, with elevations, sections, and plans of the most improved sorts of apparatus. Now employed at the gas works in London", London 1819, Second edition 1820; German translation by
Wilhelm August Lampadiusentitled "Praktische Abhandlung über die Gaserleuchtung: enthaltend eine summarische Beschreibung des Apparates und der Maschinerie", Berlin 1816, Second edition 1819; the 1816 French edition [cite web|url=http://books.google.com/books?id=Zu0OAAAAYAAJ&printsec=frontcover&ei=OITAR7bPMJCUzQSaptmtCA|title="Traité pratique de l’éclairage par le gaz inflammable"|accessdate=2008-04-01|publisher=Google books] "Traité pratique de l’éclairage par le gaz inflammable" contained a forward and was expanded by Friedrich Albert Winsor, Paris 1816; Italian "Trattato pratico sopra il gas illuminante: contenente una completa descrizione dell’apparecchio … con alcune osservazioni", Milan 1817
* "A Practical Essay on Chemical Re-agents or Tests: Illustrated by a Series of Experiments", London 1816, expanded second edition 1818 with the title "Practical Treatise on the Use and Application of Chemical Tests with Concise Directions for Analyzing Metallic Ores, Metals, Soils, Manures and Mineral Waters", Third edition 1828; [cite web|url=http://books.google.com/books?id=wqheCWzqvR8C&pg=PA455&ei=KujAR7qJM5vEzASy4dyrCA#PPR3,M1|title="Chemical Re-agents or Tests and their Applications in Analyzing Waters, Earths, Metalliferrous Ores, Metallic Alloyes &c"|accessdate=2008-04-01|publisher=Google books] reprint Philadelphia 1817; French "Traité pratique sur l’usage et le mode d’application des réactifs chimiques", Paris 1819; [cite web|url=http://books.google.com/books?id=xe0MAAAAYAAJ&pg=PR3&ei=wOfAR5S-B5PAzATngpywCA|title="Traité pratique sur l’usage et le mode d’application des réactifs chimiques"|accessdate=2008-04-01|publisher=Google books] Italian (translation of second English edition) "Trattato practico per l’uso ed apllicazione de’reagenti chimici", Milan 1819
* "Chemical Amusement, a Series of Curious and Instructive Experiments in Chemistry Which Are Easily Performed and Unattended by Danger", London 1817, Second edition 1817, Third edition 1818, fourth reprint 1819; German "Chemische Unterhaltungen: eine Sammlung merkwürdiger und lehrreicher Erzeugnisse der Erfahrungschemie", Kopenhagen 1819, entitled "Chemische Belustigungen" Nürnberg 1824; second American edition based on the third English edition with additions by Thomas Cooper, Philadelphia 1818; French translation by V. Riffault "Manual de Chimie Amusante; ou nouvelles recreations chimiques, contenant une suite d’experiences d’une execution facile et sans danger, ainsi qu’un grand nombre de faits curieux et instructifs", 1827, Second edition 1829 [cite web|url=http://books.google.com/books?id=VVYOAAAAQAAJ&pg=PP5&ei=oerAR43AE6HeyASSuu2xCA|title="Manual de Chimie Amusante; ou nouvelles recreations chimiques, contenant une suite d’experiences d’une execution facile et sans danger, ainsi qu’un grand nombre de faits curieux et instructifs"|accessdate=2008-04-01|publisher=Google books] later reprinted by A. D. Vergnaud, final and sixth reprinting Paris 1854; two volume Italian translation "Divertimento chimico contenente esperienze curiose", Milan 1820, second expanded edition by Pozzi "La Chimica dilettevole o serie di sperienze curiose e instruttive di chimica chi si esequiscono con facilità e sicurezza", Milan 1854
* "Dictionary of the Apparatus and Instruments Employed in Operative and Experimental Chemistry", London 1821, reprinted omitting the author's name as "Explanatory Dictionary of the Apparatus and Instruments Employed in the Various Operations of Philosophical and Experimental Chemistry by a Practical Chemist", London 1824
* "A Treatise on Adulterations of Food and Culinary Poisons: Exhibiting the Fraudulent Sophistications of Bread, Beer, Wine, Spirituous Liquors, Tea, Coffee, Cream, Confectionery, Vinegar, Mustard, Pepper, Cheese, Olive Oil, Pickles, and Other Articles Employed in Domestic Economy, and Methods of Detecting Them", London 1820, [cite web|url=http://www.archive.org/details/treatiseonadulte00accuiala|title="A Treatise on Adulterations of Food and Culinary Poisons: Exhibiting the Fraudulent Sophistications of Bread, Beer, Wine, Spirituous Liquors, Tea, Coffee, Cream, Confectionery, Vinegar, Mustard, Pepper, Cheese, Olive Oil, Pickles, and Other Articles Employed in Domestic Economy, and Methods of Detecting Them"|accessdate=2008-04-01|publisher=Archive.org] Second edition 1820, [cite web|url=http://www.archive.org/details/treatiseonadulte00accurich|title="A Treatise on Adulterations of Food and Culinary Poisons: Exhibiting the Fraudulent Sophistications of Bread, Beer, Wine, Spirituous Liquors, Tea, Coffee, Cream, Confectionery, Vinegar, Mustard, Pepper, Cheese, Olive Oil, Pickles, and Other Articles Employed in Domestic Economy, and Methods of Detecting Them"|accessdate=2008-04-01|publisher=Archive.org] Third edition 1821, Fourth edition 1822; reprint Philadelphia 1820; German translation by L. Cerutti "Von der Verfälschung der Nahrungsmittel und von den Küchengiften", Leipzig 1822, Second edition 1841
* "A Treatise on the Art of Brewing: exhibiting the London practice of Brewing, Porter, Brown Stout, Ale, Table Beer, and various other Kinds of Malt Liquors", London 1820, Second edition 1821; German translation by Accum's niece Fredrica Strack " _de. Abhandlung über die Kunst zu brauen, oder Anweisung Porter, Braun-Stout, Ale, Tischbier … zu brauen", Hamm 1821; French translation by Riffault " _fr. Manual théorique et pratique du brasseur", Paris 1825, later reprinted by A. D. Vergnaud
* "Guide to the Chalybeate Spring of Thetford", London 1819 [cite web|url=http://books.google.com/books?id=pxYPAAAAYAAJ&pg=PR8ei=fEjpR_vgGaO6jgGIhL3WBA#PPR1,M1|title="Guide to the Chalybeate Spring of Thetford"|accessdate=2008-04-01|publisher=Google books]
* "A Treatise on the Art of Making Wine", London 1820, followed by many edition, the last being 1860; French " _fr. Nouveau Manuel complet de la Fabrication des Vins de Fruits", 1827, later translation by Guilloud and Ollivier as " _fr. Nouveau Manuel complet de la fabrication des vins de fruits, du cidre, du poiré, des boissons rafraîchissantes, des bières économiques et de ménage …", Paris 1851 [cite web|url=http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k205899r|title=" _fr. Nouveau Manuel complet de la fabrication des vins de fruits, du cidre, du poiré, des boissons rafraîchissantes, des bières économiques et de ménage …"|accessdate=2008-04-01|publisher=Gallica]
* "Treatise on the Art of Making Good and Wholesome Bread", London 1821
* "Culinary Chemistry, exhibiting the scientific principles of Cookery, with concise instructions for preparing good and wholesome Pickles, Vinegar, Conserves, Fruit Jellies with observations on the chemical constitution and nutritive qualities of different kinds of food", London 1821
* "Physische und chemische Beschaffenheit der Baumaterialien, deren Wahl, Verhalten und zweckmässige Anwendung", 2 volumes, Berlin 1826
* cite journal
author = R. J. Cole
title = Friedrich Accum (1769-1838). A biographical study
journal = Annals of Science
year = 1951
volume = 7
issue = 2
pages = 128–143
doi = 10.1080/00033795100202291
* cite journal
author = Charles Albert Browne
title = The Life and Chemical Services of Frederick Accum
journal = Journal of Chemical Education
year = 1925
volume = 2
issue = 10-12
pages = 829–851, 1008–1034, 1140–1149
* cite book
first = Wolfgang
last = Schivelbusch
authorlink= = Wolfgang Schivelbusch
title = Lichtblicke: zur Geschichte der künstlichen Helligkeit im 19. Jahrhundert
publisher = C. Hanser
location = Munich
year = 1983Translation:
* cite book
first = Wolfgang
last = Schivelbusch
authorlink= = Wolfgang Schivelbusch
title = Disenchanted night : the industrialization of light in the nineteenth century
publisher = University of California Press
location = Berkeley
year = 1988
* cite encyclopedia
last = Thackray
first = Arnold
title = Accum, Friedrich Christian
Dictionary of Scientific Biography
volume = 1
pages = 43-44
publisher = Charles Scribner's Sons
location = New York
year = 1970
isbn = 0684101149
* [http://www.lib.k-state.edu/depts/spec/rarebooks/cookery/accum1821.html Extracts from "Culinary Chemistry"]
* [http://www.gutenberg.org/browse/authors/a#a8418 Works by Friedrich Accum] available at
* [http://www.rsc.org/Library/LICHelp/HistoricalChemistry/Thereisdeathinthepot/index.asp "There is death in the pot" food safety work by Fredrick Accum 1820]
* "Fredrick Carl Accum" – A short biography by Lawson Cockroft, [http://www.rsc.org/images/cw01_accum_tcm18-32850.pdf available online] in PDF from the library of the Royal Society of Chemistry, London.
* [http://www.rsc.org/Education/EiC/issues/2005Mar/Thefightagainstfoodadulteration.asp The fight against food adulteration]
NAME = Accum, Frederick Christian
ALTERNATIVE NAMES = Accum, Friedrich Christian (German)
SHORT DESCRIPTION = Chemist
DATE OF BIRTH = March 29, 1769
PLACE OF BIRTH =
Bückeburg, Schaumburg-Lippe, Germany
DATE OF DEATH = June 28, 1838
PLACE OF DEATH = Berlin, Germany
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