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Chemical Landmark 2009

The First Chemical Factory in Switzerland

Designated as «Chemical Landmark» on 11 November 2009.

The first designation of a «Chemical Landmark» in Switzerland went to Winterthur, where Johann Heinrich Ziegler (1738-1818), together with Johann Sebastian Clais (1742-1809) and Johann Jakob Sulzer (1738-1797) built the first chemical factory in Switzerland between 1777 and 1781.

This complex of buildings – also called «Laboratorium» – was located at the «untere Neuwiese» at that time some hundred meters away of the town. The last buildings were demolished in 1960.

Main building of the «Laboratorium» in 1960
Main building of the «Laboratorium» in 1960Image: Winterthurer Bibliotheken, Sondersammlungen

The main products of the factory were vitriolic acid (sulfuric acid) and its derivatives, which were use as bleaching and colouring agents in the textile industry locally and nationwide. They also produced other products such as hydrochloric acid and soda. (List of products in 1781; source: Zentralbibliothek Zürich, Ms. Car. XV 154a.4, Beilage)

The designation was celebrated on November 11th, 2009 directly at the Laboratoriumsstrasse in Winterthur. More than 50 persons followed the invitation, among them politicians, chemists and historians, but also residents and other interested people.

Felix Escher, Vice-president of the SCNAT, welcomed the attendees and gave a short introduction to the SCNAT. The laudation - written by Karl Gademann, Member of the board of the «Platform Chemistry» - was followed by two short speeches: Rudolf Gamper, a local historian from Winterthur, gave a concise overview of the history of the «Laboratorium» and Hans-Jürgen Hansen, Emeritus of the Chemistry Department of the University of Zurich, gave an introduction to the chemistry of the 18th century.

Chemical Landmark 2009 Tafel
Chemical Landmark 2009 TafelImage: M. Lio

After the revelation of the commemorative plaque, Ernst Wohlwend, Mayor of the City of Winterthur, thanked the SCNAT in the name of the city for this honor. In his speech, he emphasized the importance of the first chemical factory for the industrial history of the city and the innovative character of former and present enterprises in Winterthur.

Press release (German, for the French version please switch to FR [top right of page])

Media coverage

- SDA, 11.11.2009
- Top Online, 11.11.2009
- Der Landbote, 12.11.2009, p. 12
- Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 12.11.2009, p. 21
- Sonntagszeitung, 15.11.2009, p. 70
- Winterthurer Stadtanzeiger, 17.11.2009, p. 3
- Winterthurer Zeitung, 18.11.2009, p. 7
CHIMIA 2009, 63, p. 895
- CHemie Plus 2009, 12, p. 8

Nominations for the next round of designations are now open:

Everyone – chemist or non-chemist, historian or non-historian – is encouraged to submit their nomination to the «Platform Chemistry».

The proposals will be reviewed by a committee of chemists, chemical engineers, and science historians.


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