How to Join
Yes Deer ... I Didn’t Forget the Ides of Musk!
by Bill Mikuska
Friday, March 16, 2012
To be held at
McCrone Research Institute
2820 S. Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60616
6:30 PM: Food & Beverages ~ Pizza: Tariff ~ $12.00
Contact Freddie Smith for Reservations / Cancellations at 312-842-7100 or
by Noon Thursday, March 15, 2012
7:30 PM: Presentation
Natural animalic musk was a vital ingredient in perfumery, both as a fragrance and fixative,
and in medicines since 3500 BCE. Musk is an odiferous secretion derived from the musk gland
under the abdomen near the pubis of the male musk deer, a misnamed animal native to the
mountainous regions of Asia, including Tibet and northeastern China. The musk deer is now
internationally protected under CITES although poaching and trading of endangered species continues today.
The first synthetic or “white musk” was made, however, before the musk deer was declared endangered.
In 1758 Andreas Sigismund Margraff treated the oil distilled from amber (huile de sussin) with nitric
acid and synthesized a musky smelling solid he called “artificial musk.” The first commercial
production of a synthetic musk came after the discovery by Albert Baur in 1888 of “Musk Baur”
while looking for an alternative explosive to TNT. This led to the birth of the nitro musks
along with their now attendant “green” problems, potential carcinogenicity, and the resurgence
for alternative musk odorants.
Along with a brief history of fragrance and perfumery, this presentation will focus on the polarized
light microscopy of the nitro musks and some of their replacements.
Bill C. Mikuska received his BS and MS in chemistry from the Illinois Institute of Technology with emphasis in physical chemistry and chemical physics. Research studies included gas-surface interactions by molecular beams and X-ray induced defects in alkali halide crystals. A 30 year teaching career at Triton College followed where he engaged students to use polarized light microscopy in independent study projects. He was president of the State Microscopical Society of Illinois for 9.5 years and has received the Emile Chamot award. Bill is also a fellow of the Royal Microscopical Society. He taught classes in polarized light microscopy to high school students, high school and middle school teachers, and engineers at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and at the Argonne National Laboratory. Most recently he became a member of the Rowfant Club, a bibliophilic society founded in Cleveland in 1892. His interests range from classical music (organ performance and practice), Venetian and French glass, antique bronzes, art, meteoritics, mineralogy, and botany.
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