Date: Tue May 28 00:49:49 EDT 1996
Subject: A.Word.A.Day--famulus
fam.u.lus \'fam-y*-l*s\ \, -.le-\ n or [G, assistant to a
professor, fr. L, servant] pl : a private secretary or attendant

I remember Prof. Louis Fieser telling about Justus Liebig
who discovered thiophene. Liebig had a test that he thought
was for benzene. But one day when he was giving a lecture about it, the test wouldn't work. Enraged, he smashed a wash
bottle, that his "famulus" (better known as "diener" ) had
ready for such tantrums. Dr. Fieser smashed his wash bottle
to illustrate, waking up all the dozers in the back of the
auditorium. When Liebig cussed out his diener about the
specimen of benzene that had failed the test, the diener stammered that it was absolutely pure benzene, which he had
prepared from a pure sample of benzoic acid.
Suddenly Liebig realized that his test had been caused by an
impurity in ordinary batches of benzene, which he found and
named "thiophene". Count on it, he never said a kind word to
the diener. (Diener is German for "servant".)