From an ancient cosmetic to a tool of modern hygiene, humans have used soap for over four millennia! Soap plays a crucial role in our daily lives.

Julian Silverman with gray studio backdrop, red frame glasses, beard, smiling, checkered shirt, tie with clip
Julian Silverman.

Join us for an exciting lecture and soap-making demonstration by historian Julian Silverman, inspired by the historical science spectacles of Michael Faraday and the Royal Society. Part of our Fellow in Focus series, The Story of Soap will delve into the fascinating world of cleansers, highlighting soap’s beauty, versatility, and utility, through 30 live demonstrations.

Silverman’s demonstrations will explore the oils and alkali used to make soap, the intriguing films and foams it creates, its effectiveness in cleaning, and its status as an essential and ubiquitous commodity. Travel with us through time to understand soap’s scientific principles and its rich history—you’ll never look at a bar of soap the same way again!

About the Speaker

Julian Silverman is an assistant professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology and a former lecturer in organic chemistry. His research focuses on integrating green chemistry principles into the classroom and creating engaging research experiences for non-science students. He is a 2023–2024 Haas Fellow at the Science History Institute.

About Fellow in Focus

The Rohm and Haas Fellow in Focus Lecture series gives the Institute’s scholars an opportunity to present their work to a broad audience interested in history, science, and culture. Fellow in Focus lectures are presented by the Beckman Center for the History of Chemistry.

About First Fridays

Spark your curiosity while exploring the exhibits after hours! First Fridays bring together a myriad of activities covering everyday science, historical oddities, and everything in between. Grab your friends, and kick off an evening of discovery, surprise, and a little nerdy fun.

First Fridays at the Institute are always free and open to the public. Attendees will receive a 10% discount to National Mechanics restaurant.


Featured image: “Cleans in Less Time with Less Soap,” advertisement for Yarmor 302-W Pine Oil for Raw Stock Wool Scouring, 1944.

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