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June 29, 1970

Carl Wilhelm Scheele (1742-1786) Swedish Apothecary

JAMA. 1970;212(13):2258-2259. doi:10.1001/jama.1970.03170260054017

C. W. Scheele, the greatest organic chemist of his time and possibly of all times, spent all of his professional years as a practicing apothecary. He was born in Stralsund, Sweden, into a family of German descent.1 His father was a brewer and broker with limited resources, but he provided private schooling followed by Gymnasium training. Scheele was attracted to chemistry early in life and, at the age of 14, began an apprenticeship in Gothenburg in an apothecary shop, the only route at that time to the profession. In addition to fulfilling the duties of an apprentice, Scheele read the best chemical works available, including those of Lemery, Stahl, designer of the phlogiston theory, and Kunkel, discoverer of phosphorus. Also, he repeated with crude and simple equipment selected experiments of the recognized masters.

Scheele's apothecary work was continued in succession in Malmö and Stockholm; while in Upsala in 1770,