Edward D. Campbell had in mind two principal objects when compiling History of the Chemical Laboratory of the University of Michigan 1856–1916. The first was an attempt to give a condensed account of the development of chemistry, both pure and applied, at the University of Michigan, from the time this subject was first taught at the University to 1916. The second object was to preserve a permanent list of all those men who constituted the instructing staff in the Chemical Laboratory, together with the years of their service therein, and a list of the scientific papers and other articles that they published during the years of their official connection with the Laboratory.
Chemistry was the first of the experimental sciences to be taught by the laboratory method, and the development of the science at the University of Michigan followed along lines similar to those followed by many of the European as well as American universities, although the lines of development at Michigan were influenced by local conditions and the individuality of the men constituting the teaching staff.