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Glaser, Christopher

1. Dates
Born: Basel ca. 1615 (Contant say he was born on 27 Jan. 1628.)
Died: Paris (possibly Basel), 1672 [or 1678] (Contant summarily rejects the story that he survived 1672 and died later back in Basel.)
Dateinfo: Both Dates Uncertain
Lifespan: 57 (I have accepted Contant on the death because it sounds reasonable; I have stuck with the earlier birth because Contant offers nothing but the assertion.)
2. Father
Occupation: No Information
No information on financial status.
3. Nationality
Birth: Basel, Switzerland
Career: Paris, France
Death: Paris, France, (or Basel, Switzerland)
4. Education
Schooling: No University
He seems to have been trained in Basel as an apothecary. According to Partington, he graduated in medicine at Basel. And according to de Milt and Neville, he took degrees in pharmacy and medicine in about 1643. (But surely no university gave a degree in pharmacy in the 17th century.) Contant says nothing about university education and treats Glaser as an apothecary.
The first-hand accounts of mines in his work suggest that he travelled in eastern Europe, as far as Transylvania and Hungary, to observe mining practice.
5. Religion
Affiliation: from his career, I assume Catholic.
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Chemistry, Iatrochemistry, Pharmacology
Glaser's work falls between that of LeFevre and Lemery. Whereas LeFevre drew on a Paracelsian-Helmontian tradition and Lemery on on the corpuscularian, Glaser largely eschewed theory, mostly reciting chemical recipes. However, his Traité was extremely popular in iatrochemical circles. Though his approach is very different from alchemists and some iatrochemists, and he was severely pratical, he was plainly an iatrochemist.
7. Means of Support
Primary: Apothecary, Patronage
Secondary: Academia
About 1658, he settled in Paris, opened an apothecary's shop in the Faubourg Saint-Germain, and prospered.
He was apothecary in ordinary to Louis XIV and his brother the Duke of Orleans.
1660 - c. 1672, demonstrator in chemistry at the Jardin du Roi (suceeding Le Fevre), advancing to professor (year unknown).
1672, he disappeared from public life, hence the uncertainty in the year of his death. According to one source, he returned to Basel, where he practiced medicine and surgery until his death in 1678.
8. Patronage
Types: Court Official, Government Official, Physician
De Milt suggests that some official must have protected his shop (see 7 above) because edicts prohibited the operation of furnaces without the permission of the king, verified by civil authorities, but this would have been a formality because the operation of furnaces was, in fact, encouraged.
Antoine Vallot, professor of chemistry at the Jardin du Roi, but more importantly an influential court physician in charge of the Jardin, was an important patron. He was responsible for Glaser's appoinments as apothecary-in-ordinary to Louis XIV and the Duke of Orleans. The second edition of Glaser's Traité de la chymie (1667) is dedicated to Vallot. De Milt suggests that Fagon (who became an influential court physician), sent by Vallot to the botanical gardens of Europe in 1658, was responsible for Glaser's settling in Paris.
Another patron was Nicolas Fouquet, the ill-fated superintendent of finances. Contant says that one of the customer's in Glaser's apothecary shop was the mother of Fouquet and that through her Glaser gained Fouquet's protection. Fouquet in turn recommended him to Vallot at the Jardin du Roi. With this support he became apothecary to the Duke of Orleans and to the king, and when Le Febvre left he got the post at the Jardin.
In 1672, he was implicated in the Brinvilliers poison case. The marquise de Brinvilliers, with her accomplice Gaudin de Sainte-Croix, used a recipe of Glaser's to make the poison with which they killed the marquise's father (1666) and two brothers (1669 & 1670). After a short stay in the Bastille, until it was determined that Glaser did not know how the white arsenic he sold Saint-Croix was to be used, Glaser disappeared from public life. At her interrogation in 1676, the marquise confirmed that Glaser had prepared the poison for Sainte- Croix.
9. Technological Involvement
Type: Pharmacology
He supported himself with his apothecary shop.
10. Scientific Societies
Memberships: None
His most noted pupil was Nicolas Lemery.
  1. Clara de Milt, "Christopher Glaser," Journal of Chemical Education, 19 (1942), 53-60. [QD1.J832 v.19]
  2. Hélène Metzger, Les doctrines chemiques en France du début du XVIIe à la fin du XVIIIe siècle, pp. 82-6.
  3. J.R. Partington, A History of Chemistry, 3 (London: MacMillan, 1962), 24-26. [QD11.P27 v.3, also H.P.S. Reading Room] R.G. Neville, "Christopher Glaser and the Traite de la Chymie, 1663," Chymia, 10 (1965), 25-52. [Chem QD11.C56 v.10, also H.P.S. Reading Room] J.P.Contant, L'enseignement de la chimie au jardin royal des plants de Paris, Paris, 1952.
  4. Not avilable and not consulted: Christopher Glaser, Neu-eröffnete chymische Artzney- und Werck- Schul, ed. Hans-Joachim Poeckern, (Weinheim: VCH, 1988).
Compiled by:
Richard S. Westfall
Department of History and Philosophy of Science
Indiana University

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©1995 Al Van Helden
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