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Deutsches Technikmuseum - Chemical and pharmaceutical industry

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The Websites of the donation Stiftung Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin at a glance:

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The donation contains six locations:

"Pills and Pipettes"

The chemical pharmaceutical industry as exemplified by Schering

Photo: Collection of glass pipettes on black background.

Hardly any other industrial branch has influenced modern society more than the chemical pharmaceutical industry. Just about everything that we deal with in our daily lives contains some element that has been chemically researched and developed. Even in our bodies there is hardly any element that has not been analysed in a laboratory with the goal of maintaining health or even enhancing performance.

Against the backdrop of the history of the Berlin company Schering, the visitor comes to know the laboratory techniques, the research equipment (from a glass pipette to a modern automated pipetting system), the multiplicity of chemical products as well as the fundamental principles of the pharmaceutical industry. You yourself can become a pyrotechnist and virtually build your own fireworks and fire it off or watch a demonstration of an industrial tablet press in action that has the capacity to produce 300,000 tablets an hour. A further focal point concerns the discovery of the sexual hormones and their utilization as a contraceptive agent in "the pill", which was developed by Schering, as well as its social impact on family planning and sexuality.

Photo: Black and white picture from 1938: One female and two male staff members stand before a blackboard in the Schering Laboratory upon which four famous molecular structure formulas, including the first synthetic gestagen, are depicted in chalk

In the Schering laboratory: breaking down the fundamental structures of hormones. © Bayer AG, Schering Archives

Berlin – city of science for chemistry and pharmaceuticals

Since the 1850s, Berlin has developed into a city of science in the fields of chemistry, medicine and pharmacy. As a result of both government sponsorship of institutes of science and spectacular achievements in the research sector, the scientific expertise found in Berlin attained international recognition. The chemists who were educated in the various institutes often ended up working for the local companies.

The Berlin company Schering, which to this day is a local symbol because of its allegiance to the Berlin location, is a great example of this. Its collaboration with external researchers when specializing in hormone research in the 1930s is moreover a model for the collaboration between science and business as it would become prevalent in the 20th century.

Photo: Modern small plastic pipette tips from a refill pack are pictured against a bluish white background. In the top portion of the picture a tip that has been attached to the base of a piston-driven pipette can be seen.

Modern plastic pipettes © C. Kirchner, SDTB

The chemical industry – there is a product from the laboratory for everything

The chemical and pharmaceutical industry was the first economic sector that built research laboratories within the company. New materials and, above all, new production processes were developed on these premises. Since the 19th century the range of products that could be made with less raw materials and, above all, at less expense, continued to grow.

In order to increase profits, more money was invested in research. This accelerated the productivity of research and the development of science in a way that surpassed anything that government sponsorship could achieve.

In the meantime most goods in modern society can be attributed to chemical and biochemical research. There are over 300 primary and secondary chemical products and around 30,000 end-products of the most diverse types.

Photo: Historical medication boxes, rolls and tins are displayed tightly grouped together giving the impression of a patchwork.

Collection of historical medical packaging © C. Kirchner, SDTB

The pharmaceutical industry - medications for the market

The mass production systems developed by the chemical pharmaceutical companies since the middle of the 19th century have made it possible to satisfy the medicinal needs of a fast growing population. Even though much of the work has been in the meantime automated, the pursuit of new or modified active substances continues to this day to be a mixture of coincidence and planning.

Opinions about pharmaceutical industry practices are often very contentious: The industry’s pursuit of profit is very often seen as a conflict of interest with the goal of an individual person’s health.

Photo: Two visitors are standing across from one another at a table that is also a listening station, holding earphones. Between them are two round Plexiglas display cases with illuminated models of the molecules piperazine and urotropin.

Audio station with trenchant narratives about chemistry © C. Kirchner, SDTB

Guided tours

We offer guided tours of the exhibition for individuals, groups and school classes (from the 9th grade).

The focal point of the exhibition, which presents chemistry and pharmacy within the context of the notion that "Our modern civilization emanates from the laboratory", is not first and foremost the collected objects but rather the correlations that they depict.

The tours supply the answers to question like: To what extent have chemical products greased the wheels of industrialization? What did a workstation in a turn-of-the-century laboratory look like? And what changes have come about in the present day? What effects did the discovery of the sexual hormones have on society?

Familiarity with the subject matter is not a prerequisite for understanding the guided tours. The staff of the Technical Museum will gladly accommodate any special interests of a particular group (maximum 20 persons). A guided tour in German costs 30 EUR in addition to the entrance fees and lasts about 1 hour. To make an appointment (enrolment at least 14 days in advance) or get further information, plase contact the Museumsdienst Berlin (Museum Service Berlin):

Telephone: ++49 (0)30 / 247 49-888 or per Email.

Book cover: The title “Pillen und Pipetten” in pink; in the background there are scattered tablets and capsules.

Book title “Pillen und Pipetten” © SDTB

Scientific companion volume

The exhibition examines the most up-to-date research results. The work on this subject matter gave rise to a scientific companion volume that provides the reader with an overview of the various different perspectives involved. The book "Pillen und Pipetten" (only in German) encompasses everything from historical development to crucial current topics like the search for alternatives to animal experimentation, the supply of medicines worldwide and the advances in the field of modern biotechnology.

The volume is published by Koehler & Amelang Verlag and is available in the Museum Shop for 19.95 EUR (ISBN 978-3-7338-0378-0) and for 29.95 EUR in bookstores (ISBN 978-3-7338-0377-3).

Black and white graphic: the logo of cooperation made up of a simple combination of the logos of the two foundations.

Sponsored by:

Graphic: Logo of the Stifterverband for German Science

Cooperative Partnership

The exhibition is the result of the cooperative effort of the German Museum of Technology Berlin and the Schering Foundation. Both parties have a mutual interest in promoting the understanding of the meaningful role that science plays in society and, more particularly, in inspiring in our youth an interest in the processes of science, research and technology.

The exhibition and the accompanying program are sponsored by the Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft e. V.