Anticipations and Disruptions of the First Synthetic Age: Rubber, Science and Resources, c.1839–1945

von Brescius, Moritz Hans (4 February 2020). Anticipations and Disruptions of the First Synthetic Age: Rubber, Science and Resources, c.1839–1945 (Unpublished). In: Zukunftskolleg, Universität Konstanz, Jour Fixe. Konstanz. 04.02.2020.

This project examines the contested beginnings of the current age of synthetics through an exploration of the interconnected histories of natural and synthetic rubber between 1839 and 1945. By proposing a new framework for writing resource histories, it asks how synthetic surrogates of natural materials and later entirely unknown polymers found acceptance with contemporaries and were subsequently integrated into every-day life applications since the 19th century in rapidly increasing quantities. The project also probes for the first time the strong cultural, economic and even medical resistance to the spread of synthetics in industrial societies. What makes this project unique and highly relevant hopefully for various disciplines is that it argues that the disruptions of synthetic chemistry were both material and intellectual, profoundly affecting and transforming modern resource regimes but also contemporary understandings of the shifting ‘nature–culture’ divide. It seeks to prove that natural rubber, with its uncanny properties that both fascinated and disgusted contemporaries, was a key bridging material with the world of synthetics. Its unique properties helped consumers accept ever more blurred boundaries between the natural and the fabricated – thus paving the way for the efflorescence of synthetic materials that pervade the modern world.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Speech)


06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of History and Archaeology > Institute of History > Modern and Contemporary History

UniBE Contributor:

von Brescius, Moritz Hans


900 History
900 History > 940 History of Europe
900 History > 950 History of Asia
900 History > 960 History of Africa
900 History > 970 History of North America
900 History > 980 History of South America




Moritz Hans von Brescius

Date Deposited:

18 Jun 2020 10:21

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 15:38


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