Teaching Science through History
Introduction || Contents || Resources  

Perfumes: Chemistry in 17th-Century French Courts

by Sandy Stai

pompadourThe setting for this case study is 17th-century France, the subject: perfumes. Students respond to a royal commision to develop an original perfume (or cologne) by using distillation of plant materials. They must interpret their work in contemporary terms. Advanced classes may explore the nature of specific organic chemicals (terpenes, esters, aldehydes, etc.) and Dalton's Law of partial pressures. Major NOS elements include:

  • cultural context of science
  • nature of investigation and discovery
  • science and the arts

Open Word document.

perfume bottles