Pharmacists in German Cultural History

Christoph Friedrich*

Institut für Geschichte der Pharmazie, Roter Graben 10, D- 35032 Marburg


Recibido el 8 de octubre de 2014                                          An. Real Acad. Farm. Vol. 80, Nľ 3 (2014), pag.600-613


This paper offers an overview on famous pharmacists who became well-known as poets or novelists, performing artists or musicians. In the 18th and 19th centuries, we find pharmacists as writers of natural-scientific works, but also of poetry and literature, such as Johann Bartholomäus Trommsdorff (1770–1837), who also wrote fairy tales. Other pharmacists published autobiographies and travelogues. Among the poets coming from a pharmacist background is Ludwig Bechstein (1801–1860), who set his mark on literature history by writing fairy tales, poems, historical novels and travelogues. A writer of world ranking was Theodor Fontane (1819–1898), son of a pharmacist, who started his pharmaceutical education in Berlin. In his autobiographical works as well as in his novel “Effi Briest”, he also writes about pharmacists. Another one of his novels, “‘All Kinds of Luck’”, in which a pharmacist is the protagonist, remained fragmentary. Among the poets who came from a pharmaceutical background is also the dramatist and novelist Hermann Sudermann (1857–1928), whose “Lithuanian Stories” and his novel “Lady Sorrow” are read in Germany even today. In his autobiography he recounts his education in a pharmacy. The expressionist lyricist Georg Trakl (1887–1914) was also a pharmacist, he studied pharmacy in Vienna and worked as a military pharmacist. At the beginning of the First World War, he committed suicide. Along with pharmacists who painted the illustrations for their scientific works themselves, Carl Spitzweg (1808–1885) and Behrend Goos (1815–1885) became the most famous representatives. But also on the musical field some pharmacists became known such as Eduard Lucerna (1869–1944), who wrote an opera, ten symphonies, chamber music and songs. Heinz Höhne (1892–1968) composed the song “High on the Yellow Chariot” which became one of the most popular songs in Germany. Finally, there are also some famous singers coming from the pharmacist profession. Thus, pharmacists marked the cultural life in Germany to some extent.

Keywords: pharmacists; cultural life; German history.


Este trabajo ofrece una panorámica de farmacéuticos famosos que se dieron a conocer como poetas o novelistas, artistas o músicos. En los siglos XVIII y XIX se encuentran farmacéuticos escritores de trabajos en ciencias naturales pero también de poesía y literatura como Johann Bartholomäus Trommsdorff (1770–1837), que escribió también cuentos de hadas. Otros farmacéuticos publicaron biografías y libros de viajes. Entre los poetas provenientes de un entorno farmacéutico se encuentra Ludwig Bechstein (1801–1860), que dejó huella en la historia de la literatura al escribir cuentos de hadas, poemas, novelas históricas y libros de viajes. Un escritor conocido en todo el mundo fue Theodor Fontane (1819–1898), hijo de farmacéutico que empezó su educación farmacéutica en Berlín. En su trabajo autobiográfico, así como en su novela “Effi Briest”, escribe sobre farmacéuticos. Otra de sus novelas “‘All Kinds of Luck’”, en la que un farmacéutico es el protagonista, solo quedan fragmentos. Entre los poetas que vienen de antecedentes familiares farmacéuticos se encuentra el dramaturgo y novelista Hermann Sudermann (1857–1928), cuyas “Lithuanian Stories” y su novela “Lady Sorrow” se leen en Alemania hoy en día. En su autobiografía reconoce su educación en una farmacia. El lírico expresionista Georg Trakl (1887-1914) fue también farmacéutico, estudió Farmacia en Viena y trabajó como farmacéutico militar. Al comienzo de la Primera Guerra Mundial se suicidó. Entre los farmacéuticos que ilustraron sus trabajos científicos Carl Spitzweg (1808-1885) y Beherend Goos (1815-1885) son los más representativos, pero también en el campo musical algunos farmacéuticos son bien conocidos, como Eduard Lucerna (1869-1944), que escribió una ópera, diez sinfonías , música de cámara y canciones. Heinz Höhne (1892- 1968) compuso la canción “High on the Yellow Chariot” que llegó a ser una de las canciones más populares en Alemania. Finalmente hay famosos cantantes que provienen de la profesión farmacéutica. De este modo los farmacéuticos marcaron la vida cultural en Alemania hasta cierto punto.

Palabras clave: farmacéuticos; vida cultural; historia alemana.


The German nation incurred much guilt during the time of World War II in the period of National Socialism. Yet, Germany is still generally considered to be the ‚land of poets and philosophers‘ – and one can even add ‚of artists‘. It was here where the great poets Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832) and Friedrich Schiller (1759-1805) lived, just as the novelists Thomas Mann (1875–1955) and Theodor Fontane (1819–1898). Among the most significant painters were Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528), Lucas Cranach (1472–1553), Caspar David Friedrich (1774–1840) as well as Carl Spitzweg (1808–1885). Eventually, among the outstanding Germans we count Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750), Georg Friedrich Händel (1685–1759), Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827) and Richard Wagner (1813–1883). They all created world-class works. Yet, it is only known to few that some of them were practicing the profession of a pharmacist, such as the poet and novelist Theodor Fontane, like wise the painter Carl Spitzweg. This should be reason enough to take a closer look at the importance of pharmacists for the German cultural history. Initially, artists arising from their occupation as pharmacists are considered, in the second part it is intended to examine the depiction of pharmacists, i.e. their representation in visual arts, literature and music.

Writing Pharmacists at the Turn from the 18th to the 19th Century

Since the Renaissance in literary studies, poets have been regarded as imitators of nature and as creators of an elevated new world. At the end of the 18th and at the beginning of the 19th century pharmacists, increasingly focused on nature. Scientifically interested pharmacists were involved with studies of nature not limited to pharmaceutical topics. In this period we can find pharmacists as writers in the natural sciences: they composed works such as chemical, technological, botanical, zoological and physical text- and handbooks as well as reference books and studies in various fields of the natural sciences. Moreover, the pharmacists Johann Bartholomäus Trommsdorff (1770–1837) and Johann Friedrich Göttling (1753–1809) founded their learned journals (1). As a matter of course they appeared as authors of books and magazines. This strongly influenced their relation to the written word. Unsurprisingly, such pharmacists contributed to the range of literature and fiction. Among these works were e.g. ‘occasional’ poems for weddings or birthday parties as well as for academic or professional jubilees, which were composed by colleagues or students of the pharmacist in question. But beyond these pieces of work we also find independent compositions.

For instance, the pharmacist and contemporary of Goethe, Johann Bartholomäus Trommsdorff (1770–1837), wrote fairy tales resembling his poetic inclination and phantasy (2). However, preferred genres for writing pharmacists were autobiographies and travelogues. The last of which are commonly associated with the personal interests of an author, in particular pharmacists in the botanical field gave detailed reports on their tours after gathering their collections. Autobiographies, in contrast, reflect much about the contemporary atmosphere of life and express a certain literary talent when depictions go beyond professional occupations.

One of the best pharmacist autobiographies is ‘Memories from the 90 Years of my Life’ by Ernst Wilhelm Martius (1756–1849). The history of our research on the emergence of this work resembles his struggle in writing and placing his life in the context of his time. For this reason, we find reports about the conditions at the University of Erlangen, in particular regarding medicine and pharmacy, as well as on the French Revolution and famous contemporaries such as the Countess of Cosel (1680–1765) and alchemist Count Alessandro Cagliostro (1743–1795). Nevertheless, such poetic works must be considered by-products of writing pharmacists – their main focus was on natural scientific works and on editing journals (3).

Writing Pharmacists in the late 19th and the 20th Century

Figure 1.- Ludwig Bechstein.

After 1860, experimental chemical research shifted from pharmacies to university laboratories. The methodological and instrumental boom of chemistry and the plenty fullness of specialist literature contributed to the effect that scientifically interested pharmacists became more passive in the field of chemistry. They transferred their activities to descriptive sciences like botany and zoology or they occupied themselves as gatherers. Within these domains numerous books were composed depicting native wildlife. Pharmacists remained perceptible specialist writers in the late 19th century (4).

Aside, many pharmacists chose their profession rather for pragmatic reasons. At that time the period of training was short and enabled young men to earn their living. This fact and the increasing esteem of the profession attracted people who wanted to be promoted in the 19th century. Children of poorer families chose this particular profession because it would allow for advancement to become a pharmacy owner, often by marriage, a natural scientist or a factory owner (5). Some became pharmacists despite their artistic talent in order to earn their living alongside with their artistic activity; they attempted to produce artworks that would enable them to dedicate themselves to their work as an artist or writer.

The poet Ludwig Bechstein (1801–1860) (Figure 1) belongs to this latter category. In his autobiography, he confesses to have been a poor child, neglecting his illegitimate descent. He was adopted and brought up by his uncle Johann Matthäus Bechstein (1757–1822), the writer of a few natural scientific works who tried to inspire his nephew. Because Ludwig Bechstein was no successful pupil at school, he started his apprenticeship as a pharmacist in Arnstadt, Thuringia (Figures 2, 3), in 1818 (6). He soon recognized that he had little enthusiasm for pharmaceutical operations – “to make capsules and signatures, to line boxes, to cut teas and roots, to refill empty glasses or tins and to sell drugs” (7) – this occupation meant no satisfaction to him. That is why he started writing poems. After he finished his apprenticeship in 1822, he still remained in the Arnstadt pharmacy for two additional years. In 1824, he moved to Meiningen and two years later to Salzungen. Here again, he did not enjoy his profession. He improved his low income by means of an extra salary as a writer. In 1828 he released his volume of poetry titled ‘Sonnet Chaplets’ (‘Sonettenkränze’) and attracted the attention of the young Duke Bernhard Erich Freud of Saxony-Meiningen (1800–1882). He sponsored him three years of academic studies of philosophy, history, literature and arts in Leipzig and Munich. Bechstein was now able to abandon his unloved job as pharmacist. In 1831 he returned to Meiningen and became the ducal librarian. His work as a poet contains a collection of popular fairy tales and legends as well as historical novels, poems and travelogues in which he proves himself to be a careful observer of nature. His detailed descriptions of plants, animals, minerals and stars echo the scientifically skilled eye of a botanizing pharmacist. Likewise, his “tendency towards the mystical and mysterious” does not appear to be untypical of a pharmacist (6).

Figure 2.- Bechstein pharmacy in Arnstadt.

The pharmacist and poet Theodor Fontane (1819–1898) (Figure 4) had a profound impact on the German historical and social novels. As the son of a pharmacist he gained an early insight into this profession and does not seem to have started his apprenticeship reluctantly. In his autobiography ‘From Twenty to Thirty’ (‘Von Zwanzigbis Dreißig’), he fondly illustrates his time as an apprentice. It was with Wilhelm Rose (1792–1867), the son of a famous pharmacist from Berlin and owner of the pharmacy ‘To the White Swan’ (‘Zumweißen Schwan’), who was Fontane’s instructor. He did a good exam and became a first-class pharmacist attending a scientific training in the ‘Court Pharmacy’ (‘Hof-Apotheke’) in Berlin and at the Collegium medicum. The city physicus of Berlin, Dr. Natorp, attested him “good knowledge of chemistry, pharmacy, botany and Latin” (8).

Figure 3.- Bechstein pharmacy in Arnstadt.

In 1840, Fontane started to work as an assistant in the pharmacy of Burg with a very mean chief named Kannenberg. Fontane was lucky to move to Leipzig in 1841 already where he worked in the pharmacy ‘To the White Eagle’ (‘Zumweißen Adler’) of Mr. A. Neubert. In 1842, he moved to Dr. Gustav Adolf Struwe (1781–1840), the owner of the ‘Salomonis Pharmacy’ in Dresden. In his autobiography Fontane characterizes him as the “absolute number one in Germany, I would even say worldwide, and he really deserved this reputation” (8).

He returned to Berlin in 1845 to Julius Edmund Schacht (1804–1871), a committed political pharmacist representative who received an honorary doctorate of the University of Greifswald in 1858. In Berlin, Fontane was friend with Friedrich Witte (1829–1893), an apprentice from Rostock, who later opened up a pharmaceutical firm; they kept in contact (9). After Fontane’s first-class degree with the botanist Heinrich Link (1767–1851) and other auditors, Fontane was assigned the first-class licence to practice pharmacy in 1847.

Meanwhile, Fontane was engaged to Emilie Rouanet-Kummer (1824–1902) and was looking for a pharmacy he could buy, but each attempt failed. Then he witnessed the revolution of 1848 which Fontane illustrates in his autobiography as a promising event for himself and his friends. Arranged by pastor Ferdinand Schulz (1811–1875), a family friend, he started a job in the Deaconess Hospital Bethanien in Kreuzberg, Berlin. His task was to prepare two deaconesses for their examination and to work in the hospital pharmacy. Both women passed their exams very well, which is evidence of Fontane’s pharmaceutical knowledge. After this job he considered his future and decided to abandon the pharmacist profession, because he feared to end up like his father. His father Louis Henri Fontane (1796–1867) was a gifted man, a delightful narrator, but also a gambler and drinker.

Theodor Fontane realized that his fortune did not suffice to buy a good pharmacy, so he quitted his profession. In the following years he worked as editor, corrector, press agent and finally as the secretary of the Academy of Arts in Berlin. In 1878 he published his first novel ‘Before the Storm’ (‘Vordem Sturm’) (8).

Only one year later Fontane mentioned plans for a contemporary novel titled ‘All Kinds of Luck’ (‘Allerlei Glück’), the protagonist of which was a pharmacist who resembled his former master Wilhelm Rose very much. However, the novel remained fragmentary, but Fontane incorporated many sketchily drawn characters and milieu depictions in his later works. The publishers rather preferred shorter narrations or novellas. Besides, Fontane did not want to be distinguished as a ‘writing pharmacist’ (10).

Figure 4.- Theodor Fontane.

In 1892, Fontane was taken ill with an age-related depression. His physician was about to admit him to a mental asylum. Fontane believed that he would die at the age of 72 like his father. When he was recovering – without medicine which he as a former pharmacist was disinclined to take – his doctor recommended, “If you want to get well again, write.” Fontane started to write down his childhood memories and proceeded with his novel ‘Effi Briest’. In both works pharmacist characters appear: his own father in his childhood memories and Dr. Alonzo Gieshübler in ‘Effi Briest’, the last of which without a doubt shares features of his father, and according to Georg Urdang he is “one of the most likeable, though authentic representatives of his profession ever created by a writer.” Gieshübler, who affirmed that he had never been young, is presented as an exceedingly positive figure feeling a lot of sympathy for other people (8).

Another writer originating from the profession of pharmacists is the dramatist and novelist Hermann Sudermann (1857–1928), whose dramas were successful in Berlin and other theatres in his lifetime. Currently, Sudermann is largely forgotten, apart from his ‘Lithuanian Stories’ (‘Litauische Geschichten’) or his novel ‘Lady Sorrow’ (‘Frau Sorge’).Sudermann was born as the son of a brewery tenant in the utmost East of Germany, in the Klaipėda Region, the Memel Territory, in East Prussia. Because of his parents’ financial limits he had to drop out of secondary school in Elbing ahead of time. As he later wrote, he chose to work as a pharmacist which he regarded as half of a chemist (11). In his autobiographical memories ‘The Picture Book of my Youth’ (‘Das Bilderbuchmeiner Jugend’) from 1922, he dedicates an entire chapter to his apprenticeship. The chief of his pharmacy is illustrated as a sympathetic person who never showed any outburst of anger, even when the overzealous Sudermann crashed a precious mortar. As a consequence of a knee injury, which he received from a scuffle in his schooldays, he was eventually forced to break off his unloved apprenticeship ahead of time. He confessed: “The evil brute having thrown me against the hinge was my saviour, otherwise I would still stand in front of the preparation table and brew expectorant influenza drinks” (12).

The poet and pharmacist Georg Trakl (1887–1914), who became a famous expressionistic lyricist, stuck to his profession until the end of his life, even though enforced. Trakl was born as the fourth of seven children of the iron trader Tobias Trakl in Salzburg. As a pupil he already showed great interest in literature and lyric. Because he did not pass class seven, his father determined him to become a pharmacist. In 1905 Trakl began his apprenticeship in Carl Hinterhuber’s Pharmacy ‘To the White Angel’ (‘Zumweißen Engel’) in the ‘Linzer Gasse’. Hinterhuber was an old man, a heavy drinker and in his pharmacy Trakl made his first experience with narcotics, as the poem ‘The Sleep’ (‘Der Schlaf’) of that time demonstrates: “Not your dark poisons again / White sleep! / This fantastically strange garden / Of trees in deepening twilight / Fills up with serpents, nightmoths, / Spiders, bats” (13).

In the autumn of 1918, he started studying pharmacy at the University of Vienna in the regular course of four terms. Among others, his teachers were the professor of chemistry, Zdenko Hans Skraup (1850–1910), who synthesized quinoline for the first time, which was temporarily also used as an antipyretic. Another famous teacher of Trakl’s was Joseph Moeller (1848–1924), co-author of the important pharmaceutical ten-volumed ‘Real-Encyclopädie der gesamten Pharmazie’ (14).

After his examination as a magister, Trakl worked for a short time in the ‘White Ange Pharmacyl’ again, but he could not stand the hectic everyday life there. In 1910, he began a voluntary one-year military service in Vienna. Alongside he wrote poems and faced the common dilemma of an artist’s life. Working as a pharmacist, he could not spare much time for writing, but to be able to write he depended on earning money to earn his living. In 1912 he started to work as a military drug officer in the garrison hospital of Innsbruck, which he soon quitted in September already. He gave up his position in the Ministry of Public Labour after two hours of work. Instead, he applied for a job as a pharmacy officer in the Ministry of War, got the job and had to check columns of numbers all day. Trakl was on sick leave and considered returning to the military. He applied for positions in the dispensaries of Vienna.

Even though his friends had given him lots of support, he proved himself incapable of living. The philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889–1951) – who had also been industrialist at that time – had offered a large amount of money to Trakl and Rainer Maria Rilke (1875–1926). Trakl should have received 20.000 Kronen (200.000 Mark) that would have eased his financial difficulties for a long period. Yet, he was unable to fetch the money, an stood trembling in front of the bank.

Fairly at the beginning of World War I, Trakl was conscripted into the army in October 1914. After strenuous marches through Galicia he experienced the Battle of Gródekto which he dedicated his last poem. He had to take care of 90 seriously wounded people almost without medicine in a barn. Trakl suffered from a nervous breakdown and attempted suicide, but his comrades took his gun away. Shortly thereafter, he was transferred to a garrison hospital in Kraków, as he believed in order to work as a military pharmacist. Indeed he was brought to the psychiatric department for the observation of his mental state. One of his friends reported that Trakl had lost the will to live. On November 3rd 1914 Trakl died of a cocaine overdose, presumably because he wanted to end his life.

Trakl was buried at the Rakowicki Cemetery in Kraków, in 1925 his mortal remains were transferred to the Mühlau Cemetery near Innsbruck. Trakl proved to be unable to lead a normal life, but he was capable of lyricism of enduring value under the most difficult circumstances. He wrote poems full of melancholia and mortal eroticism which illustrate his groping for myth and faith. Although he felt an inner distance towards the profession of a pharmacist, he has worked for a considerable part of his life as such (14).

Pharmacists as Visual Artists

Being involved in visual arts is not too far away from working as a pharmacist because either require precise observation of nature. Pharmacists must be able to recognize drugs or medicinal plants and identity them accurately. Consequently, some pharmacists directly illustrated natural objects, for instance Gottlieb Wilhelm Bischoff (1797–1854), professor in Heidelberg, who originally intended to become a painter. Apart from his occupation as a botanist he created paintings of high artistic value, for example for Carl Philipp Martius’ (1794–1862) writing ‘Nova genera et species plantarum, quas in itinere per Brasiliam’ (15).

Friedrich Wilhelm Justus Baedeker (1788–1865), who owned a pharmacy in Witten (Ruhr), occupied himself with ornithological studies in his leisure time. 34 coloured tables for Brehm’s natural history of all birds in Germany (‘Handbuch der Naturgeschichtealler Vögel Deutschlands’) illuminate his artistic talent (16).

Likewise, the pharmacist Berend Goos (1815–1885) (Figure 5) from Hamburg was devoted to painting. Goos, who was born as the son of a pastor in Hamburg, spent his time of apprenticeship with Dr. Georg Eimbicke (1771–1843), a student of the famous pharmacist Johann Bartholomäus Trommsdorff (1770–1837) from Erfurt. Afterwards he attended the private institute of Heinrich Wilhelm Wackenroder (1798–1874) in Jena and enrolled at the University of Kiel. He learned from Christian Heinrich Pfaff (1773–1852), a professor who had previously worked as a pharmacist. In 1839, he passed the pharmaceutical exam of Schleswig-Holstein. He acquired a pharmacy in Hamburg in 1842, which was destroyed by a big fire in the same year (17). It was one year later that Goos rebuilt his pharmacy at the town hall market square. An ear disease forced him to abandon his profession. From now on, Goos dedicated himself completely to painting. In the history of art he was highly regarded as a landscapist and in genre painting. Two pictures – ‘The Raftsmen’ (‘Die Flößer’) and the portrait of a man – are located in the ‘Gallery of Art’(‘Kunsthalle’) in Hamburg (18).

Figure 5.- Berend Goos.

Without doubt the most important painter originating from the profession of a pharmacist was Carl Spitzweg (1808–1885). Spitzweg was born as the son of the merchant and member of parliament, Simon Spitzweg (1776–1828), in Munich. After Latin School he started his apprenticeship in 1825 in the ‘City Pharmacy’ (‘Stadt-Apotheke’) in Erding and continued in the ‘Court Pharmacy’ (‘Hof-Apotheke’) in Munich. This pharmacy was run by Franz Xaver Pettenkofer (1783–1850), uncle and teacher of the famous hygienist Max von Pettenkofer (1818–1901). It was here that Carl Spitzweg started to draw interesting customers for his personal joy beside his studies of practical pharmacy. Some of these pictures – or rather drafts – still exist today. After the death of his father in 1828, he worked as an assistant in the ‘Lower City Pharmacy’ (‘Untere Stadt-Apotheke’) in Straubing until 1830. There he gained insights into the small-town ambience that Spitzweg illustrated with this superior big-city-humour of his later works. After his practical training, he studied pharmacy for two years at the University of Munich (19) with the professor and pharmacist Johann Andreas Buchner (1783–1852), Johann Bartholomäus Trommsdorff’s probably most important student. Buchner discovered Salicin, an active ingredient of the willow tree, serving as an anti-inflammatory drug and pain killer at that time, he discovered the alkaloid Berberine, edited the pharmaceutical journal ‘Repertory for the Pharmacy’ (‘Repertorium für die Pharmazie’) and he wrote the multi-volume opus ‘Complete Epitome of Pharmacy’ (‘Vollständiger Inbegriff der Pharmacie’). Like his teacher Trommsdorff, he substantially participated in the transformation of pharmacy from craft to science (20).

Spitzweg passed his pharmaceutical exam in 1832 with distinction, which can be traced back to Buchner’s influence. Afterwards he journeyed across Italy. Back to Munich, he fell ill with a nervous fever which annihilated his original plans. Instead of moving to Switzerland as a pharmacist’s assistant – as many Bavarian pharmacists did before buying their own pharmacy with their heritage – Spitzweg went to the health resort in Sulz, Peißenberg in 1833. There it was common that the bathers were employed in producing little pencil drawings, in presenting them to other guests in the evening. Spitzweg’s drawings were a sensation. The artistically inclined head of the institution, Dr. Zeus, and the landscapist Christian Heinrich Hansonn (1791–1863) advised him to become a painter. Finally, he resolved to give up the pharmacist profession, he conducted natural studies. He avoided attending the Academy of Arts in Munich and prevented his pictures from being shaped by the academic pathos of the Munich school of thought of that time. In 1839 he dared go public and exhibit his picture ‘The Poor Poet’ (‘Der arme Poet’) in the ‘Munic Art Association’ (‘Münchner Kunstverein’) – a picture that counts to Spitzweg’s most famous ones. Yet, his picture failed what caused severe trouble to his self-confidence. In his studio at the ‘Heumarkt’ in Munich, high above the narrow streets, Carl Spitzweg created the idyllic world that was characteristic of himself. He tried new colour combinations and contrasted them to fine drawings and surfaces. In the 1860s the long-awaited success finally emerged (19, 21).

Spitzweg has now and again picked up pharmaceutical subjects in his paintings. In addition to the little drawings just mentioned the two pictures ‘The Alchemist’ (‘Der Alchimist’) and ‘The Provisor Fallen in Love’ (‘Der verliebte Provisor’) are of importance. In other pictures ‘Stork Pharmacies’ (‘Storchen-Apotheken’) occur. Spitzweg was capable of establishing the pharmacist as a prominent motif in the Biedermeier period (21).

Pharmacists as Musicians

There is no direct link between pharmacy and music: Being a pharmacist does not require particular musical skills. However, we know several pharmacists making music. One of the pharmacists, scientifically recognized in the early 18th century already, was Caspar Neumann (1683–1737) from Berlin, the son of a musician and interested in music since early childhood. He was said to have made music together with King Frederic I of Prussia when Neumann was working as an assistant in the ‘Court Pharmacy’ (‘Hof-Apotheke’) in Berlin. It was reported that Neumann played the harpsichord while the king sang chorals. It was also because of his musical talent that the king promoted Neumann. He approved of Neumann’s educational journeys to various court pharmacies in 1711 and to Hermann Boerhaave (1668–1738) in Leiden as well as to Utrecht, Amsterdam and London, where he could extend his chemical-pharmaceutical knowledge considerably. In 1719, Neumann took over the ‘Court Pharmacy’. Since 1725, first-class pharmacists received a chemical training and lectures by Neumann there, so that they count as the first scientifically skilled pharmacists in Prussia, alongside second-class pharmacists who just received a practical manual training. Neumann was the author of some chemical-pharmaceutical writings, dealing with botanic analyses in particular. He examined thymol, ambergris, benzoic acid, cinnamic acid as well as tea, wine, coffee and beer (22).

Some pharmacists made music as a hobby, for instance Hermann Schelenz (1848–1922), the ‘father of the history of pharmacy’ who played the cello. Others dedicated themselves to musical compositions beside their pharmaceutical activities, for instance Eduard Lucerna (1869–1944), who was born in Klagenfurt, studied pharmacy in Graz and managed the pharmacy in Gries since 1900. He composed the opera ‘Zlatorog’, ten symphonies, chamber music and songs. In the last years of his life he was committed to compositions exclusively (22).

A song which became extremely popular in Germany was ‘Hoch auf demgelben Wagen’ (‘High on the Yellow Carriage’) which was composed by the pharmacist Heinz Höhne (1892–1968) from Berlin. He was born in Pasewalk, started his apprenticeship in Graudenz in 1912 and continued in Putbus on the island of Rügen and in Magdeburg. He had to interrupt his training during World War I. and finished it in 1920. Afterwards, he studied pharmacy in Berlin and worked in the ‘Eagle Pharmacy’ (‘Adler-Apotheke’) in Berlin-Pankow from 1923 on, which he bought in 1936. After its socialisation in 1946 Höhne was an employee in a pharmacy in Zepernick. He retired in 1965. He composed his first songs at the age of twelve, he attended composing lessons. On behalf of the ‘Wilhelm Busch Society’ he wrote songs based on Busch verses; and he composed string quartets and orchestral works (22).

The pharmacist Günther Baumgarten (1906–1989) was attended to making music and to composing in his leisure time alongside his position in the pharmaceutical industry at Johannes Bürger’s Ysat factory in Wernigerode (in the Harz Mountains). Baumgarten grew up in Magdeburg and visited the local Gymnasium that he left with the German Abitur in 1925. He received his pharmaceutical training in the ‘City Pharmacy’ (‘Stadt-Apotheke’) in Coswig and began to study pharmacy in Berlin in 1928. Subsequently, he began his studies of chemistry. In 1933 he received his doctorate degree in pharmaceutical chemistry. In collaboration with Carl Mannich (1877–1947), he developed a determination method for Morphine. In the Ysat factory, he participated in the development of cardiovascular preparations. He composed songs and chamber music including a string quartet and orchestral works (22).

Finally, many pharmacists left their jobs in favour of a full-time musical employment like the professor and organ teacher at the Conservatory of Music in Leipzig, Paul Homeyer (1853–1908), the Wagner singer Wilhelm Sigler (1846–1919), the tenor Hans Siewert (1872–1941) and the baritone Karl Scheidemantel (1858–1923). He worked at the Court Opera in Dresden and sang the premiere of Franz Liszt’s (1811–1886) ‘The Legend of St. Elisabeth’ (‘Die Legende von der heiligen Elisabeth’) in 1883 and the premiere of Richard Strauss’s (1864–1949) ‘The Knight of the Rose’ (‘Rosenkavalier’) in 1911 (22).

To sum up, pharmacists have been of vital importance to the cultural life in Germany.


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6.     Friedrich, Ch.; Forscher, Künstler, Unternehmer. Apothekerkarrieren aus vier Jahrhunderten; Eschborn 2012, p. 91–97.

7.     Müller, A. W.; Ludwig Bechstein. In den Hauptzügen seines Lebens und Sterbens gezeichnet. Handschriftliches Manuskript o. J. Goethe und Schiller-Archiv Weimar, p. 14.

8.     Friedrich, Ch. Theodor Fontane: „Denn wie er zuletzt war, so war er eigentlich“. Pharmazeutische Zeitung 143, 3093–3100 (1998).

9.     Lauterbach, I.: Friedrich Witte (1829–1893). Apotheker, pharmazeutischer Unternehmer und Reichstagsabgeordneter unter Berücksichtigung seiner Tagebücher. Stuttgart 2011 (Veröffentlichungen zur Pharmaziegeschichte, 9).

10. Friedrich, Ch.Apothekerliches in Fontanes Romanfragment „Allerlei Glück“. Geschichte der Pharmazie 44, 49–53 (1992).

11. Friedrich, Ch.; Die Apotheke von innen gesehen. Apotheker autobiographien aus zwei Jahrhunderten. Eschborn 1995, p. 103–107.

12. Sudermann, H.: Das Bilderbuch meiner Jugend. Stuttgart/Berlin 1922, p. 135

13. Wright, J. (Ed.); Collected Poems. Middletown 1995, p. 100.; Georg Trakl: Gedichte. Dramenfragmente. Briefe. Bd. 2. Leipzig 1981, p. 52.]

14. Friedrich, Ch. Georg Trakl. Unglücklicher Apotheker und Poet. (Georg Trakl. Unfortunate Pharmacist and Poet.) In: Pharmazeutische Zeitung 157, 358–360 (2012).

15. Ziegenspeck, H.; Bischoff, Gottlieb Wilhelm. In: Neue Deutsche Biographie. Bd. 2.Berlin 1955, p. 263.

16. Hein, W.-H.; Baedecker, Friedrich Wilhelm Justus. In: Deutsche Apotheker-Biographie. Bd. 1. Stuttgart 1975, p. 21f.

17. Goos, B.; Erinnerungen aus meiner Jugend. Hamburg 1896.

18. Friedrich, Ch.; Die Apotheke von innen gesehen. Apotheker autobiographien aus zwei Jahrhunderten. Eschborn 1995, p. 57–65.

19. Hein, W.-H.; Spitzweg, Carl. Deutsche Apotheker-Biographie. Bd. 2. Stuttgart 1978, p. 646f.

20. Springer, M.; Johann Andreas Buchner. Sein Leben und Werk, Ein Beitrag zur Entwicklung der deutschen Hochschulpharmazie im 19. Jahrhundert. Diss. rer. nat. Marburg 1978.

21. Habrich, Ch.; Carl Spitzweg und die Naturwissenschaften. Nachklänge zu Bildern einer Ausstellung. In: Meyer, K. (Ed.); Die Schelenz-Stiftung IV. 1989–2003. Stuttgart 2004, p. 127–165.

22. Friedrich, Ch. Vorhang auf für musizierende Apotheker. Pharmazeutische Zeitung 145, 3995–4002 (2000).