Chemical Industries: Driver of Environmental Change
The Industrial Revolution also changed the world in ways which we cannot see. The scientific revolution that occurred from the eighteenth and nineteenth century not only led to changes in steel making and engineering but also gave rise to industrial chemistry. Chemical engineering has brought huge benefits but also changed the landscape. The processes are greedy for space and use water for cooling and waste disposal.
But without chemistry, there would be no pharmaceutical drugs or medical care, no synthetic fibres, no artificial colours and no photography. Allen & Hanburys began as a processor of essential oils in London and eventually evolved into the drugs giant Glaxo Welcome. Their Ware, Hertfordshire, factory can still be seen adjacent to the River Lea Navigation. Until the digital age, photography was based on films using celluloid that began as a derivative of explosives manufacture. The original film base was developed by the north London Xylonite Company but all the subsequent development occurred in Brantham, Suffolk beside the peaceful River Stour.
Since the 1960´s there has been increased awareness of pollution and the problems of the disposal of industrial waste. However the first power plant in the UK to use domestic waste as fuel and hence recycle waste had already been built in Cambridge in the nineteenth century. Now the Cambridge Museum of Power, it was originally constructed in 1894 as a sewage works. Additional power generated from dry waste was used to move liquid waste products from the City.