Chemistry and the definition and isolation of ‘active principles’ of plants in the late 18th and early-19th centuries

Márcia H.M. Ferraz, Ana M. Alfonso-Goldfarb


Discussions of possible procedures to analyze materials originated in the various kingdoms of nature became increasingly more frequent in the second half of the 18th century. While in the wake of the work performed by Antoine Lavoisier and his group, the analysis of a considerable part of mineral compounds no longer posed a problem, the same was not the case of the substances of plant or animal origin. In this paper we discuss Pierre-J. Macquer’s and Antoine –F. Fourcroy’s ideas on the analysis of materials originated in the plant and animal kingdoms and how the results of such analyses were gradually included in pharmacopoeias in the early decades of the 19th century.

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