The end of the eighteenth century was marked by the work of the French scientist Antoine Laurent Lavoisier (1743-1794), who, having rejected the theory of phlogistics, laid the foundations of modern chemistry.
A series of discoveries changed the face of nineteenth-century pharmaceutics: among the many vegetal active ingredients were quinine, caffeine, morphine, codeine, salicin (the base of aspirin), and the new synthesised inorganic products that included chloroform, iodine, bromine and magnesium citrate.
Pharmacists' workshops manufactured products derived essentially from pharmaceutical chemistry: the medicinal ingredients were prepared on a large scale by industrial laboratories and reached the pharmacists' shops via wholesale distribution. The range of tasks undertaken by pharmacists was restricted substantially until they were left with analysis and control of medicines, and the preparation of prescriptions.
They made up pastilles, pills, granulated products, syrups, ointments, medicated oils, pomades and tinctures. This change in function was reflected in developments in the pharmacist's laboratory: the pieces of equipment used for chemical transformation diminished in number and were replaced by instruments used for mechanical processing; pots and containers became standardised and lost their distinctive appearances, and labels were reprinted in large numbers.
Phytochemical laboratory symbolizes the man's intellectual and existential suffering, obsessed from the idea to dominate nature and its chemical-physical laws. It is fruit, therefore, not just of the phylosophical presumptuousness to succeed possessing the instruments that regulate living organisms' life, but also of the summary of experiences more and more sophisticated which are led in the matter, from alchemic and iatrochemical derivation, with the intention to reveal the "secret" of remedies' property.
In particular, as far as the medicinal plants, the isolation of active principles and the possibility to manage their mechanism of action become part in the cognitive iter of nature and to the dependency from it. A process that, carried to the end, has arrived today until the overcoming of the same natural laws.