Wallerius and the Conception of Agricultural Chemistry at Uppsala University

Lunchtime Lectures
Tuesday, November 12, 2019
12:00 p.m.–1:00 p.m.
Science History Institute
315 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106
United States

Join us for a talk by Christopher Halm, Doan Fellow at the Science History Institute.

In this lecture Halm will explain how Agriculturæ fundamenta chemica (1761), the first textbook on agricultural chemistry written by Johan Gottschalk Wallerius (1709–1785), emerged from a variety of utilitarian constraints at Uppsala University. Based on original research into the “disputations” submitted under Wallerius’s guidance, Halm’s talk will show that the convergence of chemistry and agriculture took place as a consequence of powerful patronage relationships and mercantile needs for future agricultural experts. He will briefly sketch the political backgrounds of Sweden’s “Age of Freedom” and explain how the power struggle between the two major parties shaped Wallerius’s career. Halm’s main focus will be on Wallerius’s teaching practices, his didactics, laboratory experiments, and endeavors in Hagelstena—his very own farm not far from the urban center of Uppsala city. Ultimately, he will make the bold claim that Wallerius presented and introduced the application of chemistry to agriculture as a kind of analytical tool, as well as a pharmaceutical one, that would provide the conditions for both ascertaining the chemical properties of a soil and curing its infertility.

About the Speaker


Christopher Halm headshot

Christopher Halm

Christopher Halm is a historian of science and is currently completing his dissertation project on the early history of agricultural chemistry (1730–1813). His thesis claims that chemists and chemically trained agriculturists transformed the arable field as a space of work and nature into a laboratory-like space.

Christopher is interested in the history and historiography of the laboratory, the field, and the boundaries between the two. He is using the Science History Institute’s fine art collection to gain a broader understanding of laboratories before the 19th century. His research also centers on America’s founding fathers, who sought to bring together chemistry and agriculture in Philadelphia in the early 1800s.

About the Series

Lunchtime Lectures are a series of (mostly) weekly, informal talks on the history of chemistry or related subjects, including the history and social studies of science, technology, and medicine. Based on original research (sometimes still in progress), these talks are given by local scholars for an audience of the Institute staff and fellows and interested members of the public.