Punch,  50 (1866), 236.

A Conundrum for Chemists



News-Commentary, Drollery


Chemistry, Analytical Chemistry, Class, Alchemy, Periodicals, Domestic Economy

    Puzzles over an advertisement placed by 'Philo-Chemicus' in the Chemical News for a chemical assistant in a private laboratory who should preferably be a graduate and who is 'expected to carry out research, to perform commercial analyses and occasionally to wait at a table'. Wonders what sort of graduate will be qualified to fulfil these scientific and social tasks. Asks 'how is the character of the graduate of the staircase [a waiter] to be combined with that of the chemist' and suggests that the 'research' and 'commercial analyses' are euphemisms for other domestic chores including carrying food and cleaning boots. Proceeds to suggest that given the place of publication, the advertisement might be 'a specimen of the nomenclature of modern alchemy', with Philo-Chemicus representing 'a warlock of the Rosy Cross' and 'graduate' meaning 'adept'. Goes on to suppose something more sinister: that the advertiser seeks an assistant with a degree in 'penal discipline' to help with dubious 'operations'. Presents a possible response by Philo-Chemicus to a graduate asking how often he would have to wait at the table. This specifies that the assistant would only be required to wait at the table once a month and asks the graduate to state his education and 'academical standing'. Punch deduces from the wording of the letter that Philo-Chemicus is an 'amazing Snob'.

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