Hardly any other industrial branch has influenced modern society more than the chemical pharmaceutical industry. Just about everything that we deal with in our daily lives contains some element that has been chemically researched and developed. Even in our bodies there is hardly any element that has not been analysed in a laboratory with the goal of maintaining health or even enhancing performance.
Against the backdrop of the history of the Berlin company Schering, the visitor comes to know the laboratory techniques, the research equipment (from a glass pipette to a modern automated pipetting system), the multiplicity of chemical products as well as the fundamental principles of the pharmaceutical industry. You yourself can become a pyrotechnist and virtually build your own fireworks and fire it off or watch a demonstration of an industrial tablet press in action that has the capacity to produce 300,000 tablets an hour. A further focal point concerns the discovery of the sexual hormones and their utilization as a contraceptive agent in "the pill", which was developed by Schering, as well as its social impact on family planning and sexuality.
Since the 1850s, Berlin has developed into a city of science in the fields of chemistry, medicine and pharmacy. As a result of both government sponsorship of institutes of science and spectacular achievements in the research sector, the scientific expertise found in Berlin attained international recognition. The chemists who were educated in the various institutes often ended up working for the local companies.
The Berlin company Schering, which to this day is a local symbol because of its allegiance to the Berlin location, is a great example of this. Its collaboration with external researchers when specializing in hormone research in the 1930s is moreover a model for the collaboration between science and business as it would become prevalent in the 20th century.
The chemical and pharmaceutical industry was the first economic sector that built research laboratories within the company. New materials and, above all, new production processes were developed on these premises. Since the 19th century the range of products that could be made with less raw materials and, above all, at less expense, continued to grow.
In order to increase profits, more money was invested in research. This accelerated the productivity of research and the development of science in a way that surpassed anything that government sponsorship could achieve.
In the meantime most goods in modern society can be attributed to chemical and biochemical research. There are over 300 primary and secondary chemical products and around 30,000 end-products of the most diverse types.
The mass production systems developed by the chemical pharmaceutical companies since the middle of the 19th century have made it possible to satisfy the medicinal needs of a fast growing population. Even though much of the work has been in the meantime automated, the pursuit of new or modified active substances continues to this day to be a mixture of coincidence and planning.
Opinions about pharmaceutical industry practices are often very contentious: The industry’s pursuit of profit is very often seen as a conflict of interest with the goal of an individual person’s health.