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Robert Bruce Thompson in his Home Chemistry Lab

Featuring our own Robert Bruce Thompson, author of the Illustrated Guide to Home Chemistry Experiments (where you can learn how to set up a home chemistry lab and keep your local public officials on their toes):

HOBBY CHEMISTS will tell you that home labs have been the source of some of chemistry’s greatest contributions. Charles Goodyear figured out how to vulcanize rubber with the same stove that his wife used to bake the family’s bread. Charles Martin Hall discovered the economical electrochemical process for refining aluminum from its ore in a woodshed laboratory near his family home. A plaque outside Sir William Henry Perkin’s Cable Street residence in London notes that the chemist “discovered the first aniline dyestuff, March 1856, while working in his home laboratory on this site and went on to found science-based industry.”

Even in the 21st century, when home labs tend to be more synonymous with methamphetamine than major discoveries, there are some professional chemists who pursue their science at home. Just 90 miles southeast of Deeb’s house, Osamu Shimomura, one of the scientists who shared this year’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry, runs a small lab in the basement of his Falmouth, Mass., residence, where he studies bioluminescent materials from animal tissues.

Underground Science: Chemistry hobbyists face a labyrinth of local and state regulations

In the Maker Shed
Book cover
Illustrated Guide to Home Chemistry Experiments – For students, DIY hobbyists, and science buffs, who can no longer get real chemistry sets, this one-of-a-kind guide explains how to set up and use a home chemistry lab, with step-by-step instructions for conducting experiments in basic chemistry. Learn how to smelt copper, purify alcohol, synthesize rayon, test for drugs and poisons, and much more. The book includes lessons on how to equip your home chemistry lab, master laboratory skills, and work safely in your lab, along with 17 hands-on chapters that include multiple laboratory sessions.

Brian Jepson

I’m a tinkerer and finally reached the point where I fix more things than I break. When I’m not tinkering, I’m probably editing a book for Maker Media.


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