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History of Hygiene
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A brief history of…SOAP

2800 BC: The first soap? Excavation of the site of ancient Babylon unearthed clay cylinders containing a soap-like material, and inscriptions saying that fats were boiled with ashes (a method of early soapmaking).

2200 BC: The first soap recipe was found inscribed on a Mesopotamian clay tablet.

1600 BC: More early soap? The Ebers Papyrus (a ‘medical compendium’) describes the ancient Egyptian practice of combining oils with alkaline salts to form a soap-like material for treating skin diseases and for washing. And in 600 BC the Phoenicians prepared soap from goat’s tallow and wood ashes.

2nd C: Soap benefits realised. Greek physician Galen recommended soap for cleaning and medicinal purposes.

7th C: Soap manufacture. Palestine, Iraq, Iran, Italy, Spain and France were the early centres of soapmaking, using vegetable and animal oils combined with ashes and fragrance.

1100s C: Soapmaking in England. Soap was such a highly taxed, luxury item that it was not widely used.

1791: Raw material availability. Leblanc (France) patented the process for making soda ash, a major component of soap, from table salt.

1823: Chemical process revealed. French chemist Michel Eugène Chevruel showed how boiling fat with an alkali salt splits the fat molecule into the alkali salt of fatty acid (soap) and glycerol.

1853: English soap tax abolished. Soap became widely used and was described by German chemist Justus von Liebig as an accurate measure of a country’s wealth and civilization.

Lightbulb  Soap developments

With advances in chemical understanding and manufacturing techniques, soap became cheaper, widely available, and enabled development of specialised products, including bar, gel, liquid and foam soaps, which come in a multitude of fragrances to leave the hands smelling pleasant. There are also anti-bacterial and moisturising soaps.


useful stuff...

How Australian pandemics have changed! The 1919 Spanish Flu pandemic caused over 10,000 deaths in Australia,14 whereas the 2009-10 H1N1 pandemic ("Swine Flu") caused 191 deaths.15 English knights were required to bathe at least once in their lives - during the ritual of their knighthood ceremony. Because of this tradition, during the reign of King Henry IV there originated an order called "Knights of the Bath".16 The term "shampoo" came from Indian language and originally meant "massage".17 English society ladies held vacuuming parties after invention of the horse-drawn electric vacuum in 1901.18
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