Lisa Jardine explores how the advent of mass manufacture in the Midlands changed scientific endeavour from a gentlemanly pursuit into a gritty, profitable, factory-based industry; and helped to forge a new scientific discipline, chemistry.
Many early industrialists in Britain were vigorously interested in the material world. Josiah Wedgwood carried out thousands of experiments to achieve his unique Portland Blue: methodically changing the precise composition of the clay and adding different chemical elements to create new colours. He gave us fine bone china. He also gave us systematic and relentless testing on an industrial scale and the notion of quality control.
Through patiently experimenting with different methods, apparatus and techniques, James Keir worked out how to mass-produce soap. His factory at Tipton turned soap making from a craft into a science. It revolutionised hygiene, made Keir's fortune and paved the way for modern industrial chemistry.
In this Age of Opportunity