Changes in chemical concepts and language in the seventeenth century

Crosland, Maurice P. (1996) Changes in chemical concepts and language in the seventeenth century. Science in Context , 9 (3). pp. 225-240. ISSN 0269-8897 . (The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided)

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The relation between alchemy and early chemistry is still open to debate. How did what is now often dismissed as a pseudo-science contribute to the emerging science of chemistry, a subject that, by the late eighteenth century, was often held up as a model for other sciences? Alchemy may have bequeathed to chemistry some processes and apparatus; more fundamental, however, was a transformation in mentality. It was in the seventeenth century that much of this transformation took place. A study that was deeply anthropomorphic, making constant use of allegories and symbolism, and with a language rejoicing in mystery and concealment, gradually became depersonalized, much more objective, and more open. Poetic descriptions, a moral dimension, and a hierarchical view of matter all disappeared. Practical considerations required a concern for greater purity of materials, necessary for the successful replication of experiments. A study of the series of seventeenth-century French textbooks of chemistry from Beguin to Lemery reveals a growing desire for practical results and plain speaking. Robert Boyle was particularly influential in urging the necessity of plain language. The creation of a suitable language to denote and differentiate among different chemical species was a crucial step in the development of early chemistry, thus preparing the way for the systematic names introduced in the following century and the full organization of the science on rational lines.

Item Type: Article
Additional information: Document Type: Proceedings Paper Conference Information: Workshop on Fundamental Concepts of Early Modern Chemistry Max Planck Institute, Berlin, Germany, 1995
Subjects: Q Science
Divisions: Faculties > Humanities > School of History
Depositing User: M.A. Ziai
Date Deposited: 14 May 2009 23:28
Last Modified: 15 May 2014 13:20
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