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Steffens, Ørsted, And The Chemical Construction Of The Earth

  • Ernst P. Hamm
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Part of the Boston Studies In The Philosophy Of Science book series (BSPS, volume 241)

“This book offered a beautiful interpretation, informed by the character of the recent Naturphilosophie, of the geology of that time, and it was written with the intellect and eloquence that so distinguished Steffens. Its many bold and astute reflections drew much attention and were not without effect on its numerous readers; but now, looking back over almost half a century, we must confess that it did not enrich science with such clear results that they are here worth mentioning.”

Keywords

Rock Formation Empirical Science Magnesia Vapour Mineral Classification Speculative Philosophy 
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References

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    I wish to acknowledge the support of the Atkinson Faculty Committee on Research.Google Scholar
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    Ibid. pp. 83, 85 cites Georg Lichtenberg, Göttingen Taschen Kalendar, 1778, p. 7.Google Scholar
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  18. 18.
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  22. 22.
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  23. 23.
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  24. 24.
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  25. 25.
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  27. 27.
    Ibid. part 1, p. 4–5.Google Scholar
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  29. 29.
    Kant, Metaphysical Foundations (cited n. 18), pp. 40–94.Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    F. W. J. Schelling, Ideas for a Philosophy of Nature: As Introduction to the Study of This Science, transl. Errol E. Harris and Peter Heath, introduction by Robert Stern (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), p. 5. This translation is of the 1797 first edition and the 1803 supplements; all references in this paper are from the 1797 sections. See also Friedman, “Kant-Naturphilosophie-Electromagnetism” (cited n. 7).Google Scholar
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  34. 34.
    See Wilson, “Introduction”, to Selected Scientific Works (cited n. 7), pp. xxii–xxiii, and pp. xx–xxii for a discussion of the electrical conflict in Ørsted.Google Scholar
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  36. 36.
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  43. 43.
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  44. 44.
    There are several published versions of Werner mineral classification. The first authorized publication was C. A. S. Hoffmann, “Mineralsystem des Herrn Inspektor Werners mit dessen Erlaubnis herausgegeben”, Bergmännisches Journal 1 (1789): pp. 369–398.Google Scholar
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    Werner respected Christianity but his personal position was deism. There is no evidence to suggest that his scientific views were shaped by religious considerations. See Martin Guntau, Abraham Gottlob Werner (Leipzig: BSB B. G. Teubner, 1984), pp. 94–103.Google Scholar
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    Werner developed a classification for an encyclopaedia, Abraham Gottlob Werner Nachlass, Bd. 76, Blatt, 5, Wissenschaftlicher Altbestand der Bibliothek der Technischen Universität Bergakademie Freiberg. See also Henderson, “Practical Knowledge in Romantic Ordering of Nature” (cited n. 9).Google Scholar
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    Steffens, Was ich erlebte (cited n. 11), vol. iv, pp. 227–228. For a general discussion of Freiberg and Werner see ibid., vol. iv, pp. 203–233.Google Scholar
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    Ørsted developed an almost identical series of earths independently of Steffens and, as he carefully pointed out, he did so first. In his éloge for his colleague, Ørsted could find nothing in Contributions that had stood the test of time, but in the first decade of the 19th century priority did matter, see Ørsted, “The Series of Acids and Bases”, in ibid. p. 242.Google Scholar
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    Werner, Kurze Klassifikation (cited n. 47), p. 16; for a discussion of formation suites see the work of the Edinburgh Wernerian, Robert Jameson, System of Mineralogy, 3 vols. (Edinburgh: Constable, 1804–1808), vol. iii, pp. 96–97, and the discussion in Laudan, From Mineralogy to Geology (cited n. 46), pp. 97, 143, 181.Google Scholar
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    Laudan, From Mineralogy to Geology (cited n. 46), pp, 194–197. Buch’s theory did not last, in part because of chemistry. Jakob Berzelius argued there were no such things as magnesia vapours for the simple reason that magnesia could not sublimate.Google Scholar
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    Goethe’s essays on granite were unpublished in his lifetime, see “Granit I [1784]” and “Granit II [1785]”, in Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Sämtliche Werke: Briefe, Tagebücher und Gespräche, 40 vols. (Frankfurt a. M.: Deutsche Klassiker Verlag, 1985–1999), vol. xxv, pp. 311–316. The irony here is that the theory of mountain formation that Buch would develop was absolutely anathema to Goethe. It was the sort of violent change that hindered peaceful Goethean Bildung.Google Scholar
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  • Ernst P. Hamm
    • 1
  1. 1.York UniversityCanada

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