Brown Bag Lecture: “Chemicals across Borders: Customs Laboratories, Law, and Fraud”

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Date: December 9, 2014
Time: 12:00 to 1:00 p.m.

315 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106

Event Type: Open to the Public
Fee: Free
RSVP Online: No Registration Required

A talk by Ignacio Suay Matallana

Due to the improvement of transport and commerce, the arrival of new substances, and the emergence of new regulations, the 19th century has been called “the fraud century.” Both government and society were concerned with food adulteration, hygiene issues, and fraud control, so many municipal laboratories and customs laboratories were created across Europe and America.

The talk will focus on customs laboratories between the mid-19th century and mid-20th century. The local case study will be the customs laboratory of Madrid (Spain), created in 1888, but it will be compared with other laboratories and national contexts. Customs laboratories are an excellent site of chemistry to study how science circulates. Some of the questions explored will include the emergence of new spaces and chemists working in those labs, the creation of international regulations and quality standards, and the role of those official laboratories in scientific controversies managing public perceptions about quality, fraud, and risk.

Ignacio Suay Matallana is a Cain Postdoctoral Fellow at CHF. After obtaining a degree in chemical engineering he received a PhD in the history of science from the University of Valencia in 2014. He has been a researcher at the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), and his main research interests include sites of chemistry, experts on chemical analysis (19th and 20th centuries), and history of spas and water analysis.

About Brown Bag Lectures

Brown Bag Lectures (BBLs) are a series of weekly informal talks on the history of chemistry or related subjects, including the history and social studies of science, technology, and medicine. Based on original research (sometimes still in progress), these talks are given by local scholars for an audience of CHF staff and fellows and interested members of the public.

For more information, please call 215.873.8289 or e-mail

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