As the scope of each of the auxiliary sciences of pharmacy has constantly expanded, the faculties and the life of an individual man are no longer sufficient to grasp the whole domain, or even the ramifications of either of such sciences as chemistry, physics and botany. Division of labor in every direction, therefore, has more and more taken place in the study and pursuit of these sciences. The universalist, possible a generation ago, has largely been reduced to the specialist among the professors and students of our days. The master minds in pharmacy, conversant with the theory and practice of the various branches of the pertinent sciences, and acting with equal proficiency in more than one, as teachers, investigators and authors, therefore, are also passing away, and are replaced by the specialist. One of the few of these generic stars in the domain of the sciences pertaining to pharmacy of the departing century was Professor Flückiger, who passed away at his home in Switzerland, on December 11, 1894.
Friedrich August Flückiger was born on May 15, 1828, at the village of Langenthal, near Bern, Switzerland. His father was a small merchant, and the boy was educated at the village school, with a view to pursuing a mercantile trade. At the age of seventeen years he entered a commercial institute in Berlin, but his inclination towards the natural sciences seems to have been nursed and to have found encouragement in Berlin, for he soon relinquished the course of the commercial college in order to attend lectures in chemistry, geology and botany at the University of Berlin. In 1847, he entered a pharmacy in Solothurn, Switzerland, as an apprentice. This introduction into the practice of pharmacy seems to have lasted but three years, for during the two years of 1850 and 1851 Flückiger served as a drug clerk in Geneva and in Strassburg. In the fall of 1851, he entered the University of Heidelberg, where he obtained the degree of Ph.D. in 1852. He worked there in the laboratory of Professor Delffs, and subsequently, for a short time, with Professor Wurtz in Paris. Dr. Flückiger then spent some time in London, where he made acquaintances that were, later on, of much value to him; among them was Daniel Hanbury. He returned to Switzerland, and, in 1853, entered into partnership for the purchase of a pharmacy in the small town of Burgdorf, near Bern. He remained there for seven years, occupying his abundant spare time largely with linguistic, historical and scientific studies, and also with an active participation in the elaboration of the first edition of the Swiss Pharmacopoeia, published in 1865.
Although Dr. Flückiger had published but few essays, his talents and comprehensive knowledge were soon recognized, and in 1857 the Pharmaceutical Association of Switzerland elected him its chairman, which position he retained, with great benefit to the society, for nine consecutive years. In 1860, Dr. Flückiger was appointed director of the state pharmacy (Canton-Apotheke) at Bern. He gave up his pharmacy and residence in Burgdorf to accept the position; he filled it, and soon, also, that of co-examiner of pharmacists and that of state chemist until 1873. Besides, in 1861, he established himself as lecturer in pharmacy and pharmacognosy at the University of Bern, and in 1870 was appointed to full professorship. His position at Bern in the laboratories of the Canton Pharmacy, as well as in that of the University, afforded Professor Flückiger excellent chances and ample inducements for application and research in the domain of practical pharmacy. He made good use of these opportunities, and with the wealth of his knowledge, the thoroughness in all his work, and with much zeal and assiduity, accomplished during the years of his stay in Bern a large amount of important practical and literary work, including the revision and the editing of the second edition of the Swiss Pharmacopoeia in 1872, and the elaboration of the first editions of his two greatest works—the "Manual of Pharmacognosy," published in 1867, and "Pharmacographia," published in 1874.
The most significant and honorable recognition of Professor Flückiger's labors consisted in his call by the German Government as Professor of Pharmacy and Pharmacognosy and Director of the Pharmaceutical Institute, established at the reorganization of the old German University of Strassburg in Alsace in 1873. Professor Flückiger accepted this call, and filled the position entrusted to him with success, and with much credit to himself and the University, for nineteen years. In 1892, he retired at the age of sixty-four years and settled at his old home among the snow-clad Alpine ranges at Bern, with the intention of applying his remaining years to literary work, and particularly to collecting and assorting the accumulated material in preparation for the elaboration of a comprehensive history of medicinal plant drugs.
The years in Strassburg were the most prolific, as well as the most useful ones, in Professor Flückiger's indefatigable activity as teacher, investigator and author, and he looked upon them as the most happy ones of his long and successful career. There he enjoyed the attractive and inciting intellectual intercourse with the elite of the pharmaceutical students of Germany and of foreign countries, who were drawn thither by the reputation of the great scholar, and who received his instruction in the lecture-room and the laboratory, passed the searching ordeal of his examination, and finally returned home, imbued with a love for knowledge and study for its own sake, and with appreciation of their great teacher and veneration for him.
Upon the retirement of Professor Flückiger from his many years of academic activity, the veteran scholar was the recipient of many honors. The Emperor of Germany honored him by a decoration, the scientists of many countries presented him through a special committee with a magnificent album containing more than 300 photographic portraits, and with a handsome donation as a contribution to the erection of a comfortable home in Bern. Moreover, a committee was formed for the institution of a Flückiger Memorial Fund. The proceeds collected were to remain in the control of this committee, consisting, at the time, of Professors Tschirch of Bern, Schaer of Strassburg, Hilger of Munich, F. Weber of Zurich, and Professor Flückiger. Upon the death of the latter, his place in the committee has to be filled by a person elected by the National Association of Pharmacists of Germany. The object of this memorial fund is the establishment of one or more endowments for talented students in pharmacognosy, and of a Flückiger Medal to be presented at special occasions to distinguished investigators and scholars in the domain of pharmaceutical and kindred sciences and arts. In the course of three years this medal has been conferred upon eighteen gentlemen. [As the list of the recipients of the Flückiger Medal has been frequently reported incorrectly, the names may here be mentioned as they were recently published by the committee in Bern: John Attfield of London; H. Beckurts of Braunschweig; Born of Buenos Ayres; G. DragendorfF of Dorpat; H. T. Fritzsche of Leipzig; P. Giacosa of Turin; Thom. Hanbury of La Mortola; A. Hilger of Munich; Fr. Hoffmann of New York; Th. Husemann of Göttingen; J. B. Nagelvoort of Detroit; Nyegaard of Christiania; Theod. Peckolt of Rio de Janeiro; Pfersdorff of Strassburg; G. Planchon of Paris; E. Schaer of Strassburg; Alex. Tschirch of Bern; A. Vogl of Vienna.]
At the time when Professor Flückiger entered pharmacy, the domain of chemistry, as well as of botany, could be fairly well mastered by an intellect so richly endowed with the power of ready comprehension and with an unusual memory. A prodigious amount of solid knowledge in all departments of literature relating to pharmaceutical and kindred sciences, and close application, enabled him to keep abreast with the prolific and large accumulation of new facts, resulting from the progress of chemical and botanical knowledge. He early became interested in plant drugs, and his bent towards an historical aspect in all knowledge gradually led his interest and study pre-eminently in this direction. Otto Berg had inaugurated principles and methods of stricter discrimination in the study and knowledge of plant drugs, and, especially by his textbook of pharmacognosy (1852), and by his master-work, "Atlas ot Pharmacognosy" (1865), had laid an exacter scientific foundation for modern pharmacognosy. Upon this basis, Flückiger continued and improved the new structure of this branch of applied science. Fifteen years after the first appearance of Berg's text-book he published one in 1867, and in 1875, jointly with Daniel Hanbury, enriched English literature for the first time by a standard work on pharmacognosy, namely by the "Pharmacographia." These two works, the former republished twice, the latter once, were his chief literary achievements and will remain his most lasting literary monuments. Both works, apart from their comprehensive and thorough treatment of the subject matter, are remarkable for the introduction of a large amount of historical material and data. He recognized the superior value of historical research and cultivated it with all his inquisitive and critical powers. Flückiger became the historian of pharmacognosy and his early demise is the more deeply to be regretted and is the greater a loss to the world of science, as he had in the course of his life accumulated an immense amount of historical material and data, preparatory to his long cherished desire to devote the leisure of his ripe and declining years to the consummation of his life work, namely the writing of a comprehensive history of plant drugs.
The same bent towards the historical aspect in all knowledge lends equal value and charm to his third great literary work, the Text-book of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, published in one volume in 1879, and republished in a largely extended second edition in two volumes in 1888.
Besides these main works Professor Flückiger has published two more concise text-books for the study of pharmacognosy (Grundriss der Pharmacognosie, 1884, second edition, 1894, and Grundlagen der Pharmaceutischen Waarenkunde, 1873, second edition, 1885), and a chemical work on the application of chemical analysis to organic chemical compounds (Reactions).
The number of his miscellaneous writings published in the course of many years is great; they embrace biographical, historical and educational essays, sketches of the culture of plants useful in the industries and arts, and reports on original investigations in the domain of chemistry, pharmacy, pharmacognosy and botany, instituted by himself or jointly with advanced students during his 30 years of academic activity as professor and director of University laboratories in Bern and Strassburg. Most of Flückiger's writings, and especially the miscellaneous essays, are distinguished by his mastery of a concise style and logical diction, and by the wealth and the depth of his philosophical and historical conception, and therefore are as attractive as they are instructive. Some of his essays may, on account of the beauty and grace of their style and conception, well be ranked among the few classic productions in modern pharmaceutical literature.
As a teacher Professor Flückiger was esteemed on account of his conscientious and painstaking consideration of every detail in the instruction, both on the platform and in the laboratory; he was not so much a fluent as an impressive lecturer. His reputation drew pharmaceutical students from various countries to the University of Strassburg, and not a few of the most eminent pharmaceutical scholars of the younger generation at home and abroad have received his instruction, and by his inspiration have been imbued with a taste for knowledge and research for their own intrinsic interest and value, and for thoroughness in all study. They cling with veneration to the memory of their departed teacher and master.
Professor Flückiger's health had been failing for about one year. Early last year he accepted a long-standing invitation of friends to visit our country, at the same time hoping that the sea voyage during the summer months would prove beneficial to his health. He furthermore expected to search some of our larger public and private libraries for historical material in reference to American drugs, in addition to the accumulated material for his contemplated historical work. After a pleasant voyage from Genoa, he arrived here on the 28th of May, stopping most of the time of his stay in America in Brooklyn, paying brief visits to Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia and Boston, making a trip to Niagara and resting for a few weeks at a summer resort in the Shawangunk Mountains, N. Y., and at Cape Cod, Mass. At the end of August Prof. Flückiger attended the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, in Brooklyn, and made there the personal acquaintance of many American scholars long and well known to him. He returned to Europe on September 15th, and after a delightful sail to Genoa, stopped, on his way to Bern, for a few days at La Mortola. Soon after his return to Bern, early in October, a complication of diseases of the alimentary canal set in, and, after an illness of nearly six weeks, he fell asleep at 11 o'clock on the 11th day of December,
"Sustained aud soothed
By an unfaltering trust, he approached his grave
Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch
About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams."
The following is a list of Prof. Flückiger's principal works:
1862. Contributions to the History of Pharmacy in Bern.
1867. Manual of Pharmacognosy, second edition, 1883, third edition, 1891.
1873. Frankfort list of drugs. Contribution to the mediaeval history of pharmacy.
1873. Elements of Pharmacognosy. Introduction into its study. Second edition jointly with Dr. Alex. Tschirch, 1878.
1874. Pharmacographia (jointly with Dan. Hanbury), second edition, 1879.
1876. Contributions to the History of Pharmacy.
1879. Manual of Pharmaceutical Chemistry. Second edition, 1888.
1883. The Cinchona Barks.
1854. Elements of Pharmacognosy. Second edition, 1894.
1884. The Industry of Essential Oils in Grasse.
1855. Historical Sketch of the Pharmaceutical Institute at Strassburg.
1885. Pharmaceutical Education in Germany.
1886. Contributions to the History of Pharmacy in Italy.
1888. Contributions to the History of Pharmacy in England.
1889. Easter Vacation in Italy.
1893. Further Contribution to the History of Pharmacy in Bern.
1893. British Work and Progress in India.
1893. The Industry of Essential Oils and Synthetic Aromatas.
(Also, on this site: Notes on Cananga Oil, or Ylang-Ylang Oil. )
Prof. Flückiger's last contribution to a journal was his description of the Blasckka collection of glass models of plants in the Agassiz Museum in Cambridge, written for the September issue, 1894, of the Pharmaceutische Rundschau.
The American Journal of Pharmacy, Vol. 67, 1895, was edited by Henry Trimble.