Until the mid-nineteenth century most scientific investigation took place in private and academic laboratories. In the 1850s, industry got involved and began to drive the scientific agenda.
The era of the heroic scientist working alone was over. The chemical industry spearheaded the rise of corporate research and development. Chemical companies such as BASF in Germany anticipated the enormous profits that could be made by capitalising on scientific progress. They invested in state-of-the-art laboratories and attracted some of the brightest minds to work in them.
Scientific research became more systematic, focused and driven, with better funding and facilities. During the ‘second industrial revolution' the chemical companies achieved a series of breakthroughs that had an enormous impact both on people's lives and global economies.
Synthetic dyes, cheap steel-producing processes, artificial fertilisers, plastics and drugs such as aspirin were invented. Britain, `the first industrial nation', was soon outdistanced by Germany and the United States. Countries throughout the world were also affected as the commercial exploitation of science changed the balance of global economic power.