The First Chemist Ever Was a Female Perfumer from Babylon

By | August 8, 2016

Tapputi was probably the first ever chemist known to modern historians.

Dating from around 1200 B.C., several tablets written in cuneiform survived from the royal palace of Babylon. The tablets mentioned two ladies: Tapputi and another woman whose whole name didn’t survive (but ended in “-ninu”). The two ladies were perfume brewers and authors who wrote texts about scent artistry.


One of the many recipes Tapputi created for her royal masters and mistresses has luckily survived. It was a concoction of “flowers, oil, and calamus (a plant from Egypt, Syria, and Arabia commonly used in perfumed)” that she prepared for the king himself. The recipe created a solid salve that she made by brewing the ingredients in a hariu pot, letting it set overnight, and distilling the resulting stuff. After a series of other steps, including lots of re-heating, you have a good-smelling item fit for a monarch.

Perfumery was considered an incredibly important art in ancient Mesopotamia. Such products were used in religious and royal rituals alike, making the demand for incense and aromatic surge.

Some scholars theorized that women got into perfumery because of their skill in cooking and brewing beer, from which they developed skills of distilling and extracting necessary in making perfumes.

H/T Source 1 | Source 2 | Source 3