Alchemical Art in Chemical & Engineering News

The central character in David Teniers the Younger's

July 8, 2002 - Washington, DC

By Susan R. Morrissey

Enter an office or lab of a senior academic chemist and, often as not, you'll find valued antiques of the research enterprise. Holding on to balances long since outdated or to glassware designed in the 1900s provides an important link to the past for chemists. Collecting such relics seems to be in their blood.

For a small group of chemists, collecting art has become part of their means of remembering the past. Roy T. Eddleman is one such chemist. Eddleman, chief executive officer and founder of Spectrum Laboratories, Rancho Dominguez, Calif., has recently contributed his collection of alchemical art--nearly 50 paintings and engravings--to the Chemical Heritage Foundation. The collection joins the Chester G. Fisher collection, which contains pieces of the same style and is already housed at CHF in Philadelphia (C&EN, July 31, 2000, page 48). The combined set of about 100 paintings represents one of the largest collection of alchemical art in the world.

Born in Kannapolis, N.C., in 1940, Eddleman became interested in chemistry at a young age, setting up a lab in the basement of his home when he was in sixth grade. He initially attended the University of North Carolina but left during his second year to move to California. Although he planned to complete his chemical studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, he became enamored with the commercial and entrepreneurial side of chemistry that he experienced when he worked as an analytical chemist at CalBiochem in Los Angeles, and he never returned to college.

IN LESS THAN 10 years, Eddleman had left CalBiochem and founded Spectrum Medical Industries, now known as Spectrum Laboratories. At the same time he started his company, he also began building his art collection.

Eddleman modeled his collection after another chemical entrepreneur and collector of alchemical art, Chester G. Fisher, founder of Fisher Scientific. Eddleman's interest in early chemical scenes was sparked at a young age and was enhanced by the Fisher-owned Eimer & Amend laboratory supply catalog, which included reproductions of paintings from Fisher's alchemical collection for purchase. Fisher died in 1965, and his collection was donated to CHF in 2000 by James G. Fisher, Chester's son, and Paul M. Montrone, Fisher Scientific CEO.

Another influence on Eddleman's developing collection was Alfred R. Bader. A chemist by training, Bader earned a Ph.D. before cofounding the Aldrich Chemical Co. in the 1950s. He left what had become Sigma-Aldrich in 1992 to focus solely on his art collection. He and Eddleman have interacted many times over the years...

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