Passé? That’s for sure. But to what to we owe the diminishing of at-home laboratories and the purchasing of chemistry sets? Have modern day kits become too ‘wimpy’ for the young appetite or have the surplus of games and activities for children overtaken the allure the chemistry set once had? Read on to discover what crazy chemicals and features sets of the past had!
While a lot of modern chemistry sets for children advise on the child having a certain maturity and high level of responsibility before handing the kit over to them to use, the two young men above had full fledged home laboratories, that didn’t come out of a colorful, cardboard box, by their early teens. Vladimir Prelog (pictured in the first photo) went on to win the 1975 Nobel Prize in Chemistry while Wolfgang Langenbeck (pictured in the second photo) became a well known organic chemist.
From the Victorian era through to the 1960s, young kids were bought chemistry sets without a second-though by parents on issues of safety. Just check out the sophisticated Atomic Energy Lab, from the 50s, pictured above! It’s no wonder this piece of history has become a prized collectors item. While the implication, that parents back then didn’t care as much about their child’s safety, isn’t true, the fact that the idea of ‘adult supervision’ or the appearance of the ‘suitable for ages…’ mark on the side of boxes containing games didn’t appear till later indicates how becoming little Dexter's, these days, is an improbability.
From the 80s on, many who had grownup during the 60s have noted that chemistry sets have become increasingly plain and boring owing to illegal drug production and owing other legal concerns. From “four types of uranium ore” in the set from Gilbert, to modern-day sets with baking soda as the main chemical element, perhaps chemistry kits have gotten too wimpy to sustain the interest of budding scientists. Though, with active minds, children today can still read and watch videos from their grandparents time, of cooky experiments with home labs that were fully of activity…radioactivity.
This article was inspired by the wonderful objects found in the ORAU Museum Collection