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Clin Chem. 2003 Oct;49(10):1696-707.

Justus Liebig and animal chemistry.

Abstract

Justus Liebig was one of the individuals making chemistry almost a German monopoly in the 19th century. At Giessen he established the first organic chemistry laboratory and offered a systematic course for training new chemists. His comprehensive survey of plant nutrition changed the nature of scientific agriculture. In a study of animal chemistry, Liebig treated physiologic processes as chemical reactions and inferred the transformations from the chemical properties of the elements and compounds in laboratory reactions. He constructed hypothetical chemical equations derived from the formulae of the participating compounds. Liebig generalized that all organic nitrogenous constituents of the body are derived from plant protein and demonstrated how the application of quantitative methods of organic chemistry can be applied to the investigation of the animal organism. Liebig's theories were attractive, but his method of converting one substance to another by moving atoms around on paper was speculative because of the lack of knowledge as to how the elements were arranged. His dynamic personality helped win widespread acceptance by many, but others were antagonized by his wishful thinking and speculative excesses. Liebig's views on catalysis and fermentation brought him into a controversy with Louis Pasteur. Liebig's Animal Chemistry stimulated an interest in clinical chemistry because it introduced a quantitative method into physiological chemistry. However, the isolated pieces of test results on blood and urine were unconnected and did not fit anywhere. Physicians found that chemistry was not helpful at the bedside and they lost interest in its application.

PMID:
14500604
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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