13 October 2015

Surviving in Victorian Times, and How Chemistry Protects Us Now

Organised by:

SCI's London Group in partnership with UCL's Chemical Physical Society

UCL, London

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Life in Victorian times, particularly cities such as London and Manchester, was dangerous, mainly thanks to the assault on the population by a variety of unregulated chemicals. This lecture will look at these hazards, and see what was done about them.

A major peril was contaminated drinking water, which was affected by raw sewage, and which in the nineteenth century led to a series of outbreaks of cholera (which kills because of the poisonous metabolic products of the bacterium Vibrio cholerae). It took the work of various scientists and engineers to improve the situation and ensure adequate sewage disposal and provision of clean drinking water. Major scientists, such as Michael Faraday and Sir Edward Frankland were involved with these developments, as will be described in the lecture.

Another major hazard was food adulteration, with an astonishing array of substances being added to food (for example, Paris Green, aka copper arsenite was used to colour blanc manges, with literally fatal consequences). The exposure of these practices, and how they were dealt with through the growth in the discipline of analytical chemistry and the establishment of the office of Public Analyst will also be covered.

The lecture will be preceded by tea/coffee in the Nyholm room and followed by a Mixer in the Nyholm Room.

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Venue and Contact


Department of Chemistry
University College London
20 Gordon Street
London, WC1H 0AJ

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Additional Info


John Nicholson