If we can furnish accounts no less likely than any other, we must be content, remembering that I who speak and you my judges are only human, and consequently it is fitting that we should, in these matters, accept the likely story and look for nothing further.


Eighteenth Century Seventeenth Century Scientific Revolution Master Narrative Natural Knowledge 
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  1. 1.
    Plato, Timaeus, trans. Francis M. Conford (Indianapolis, IN: Bobbs-Merrill, 1959), 29:d (18).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    The dramatic narrative works less well in the biomedical sciences, not well at all in the natural historical sciences of this period, and even less well in the chemical sciences. Significantly, constructions of the narrative of the Scientific Revolution have never known what to do with Paracelsus. The historian of science who has worked most assiduously to include Paracelsus and the Paracelsians in the Scientific Revolution narrative is Allen G. Debus. “Chemists, Physicians, and Changing Perspectives on the Scientific Revolution,” Isis 89, 1998, 66–81.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    See Mi Gyung Kim’s superb account of its construction by nineteenth-century French chemists: “Lavoisier, the Father of Modern Chemistry?” in Lavoisier in Perspective, ed. Marco Beretta (Munich: Deutsches Museum, 2005), 167–91.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Newton, Stahl, Boerhaave et la doctrine chimique (Paris: Alcan, 1930). An early, classic history of chemistry that gave due weight to other factors and traditions in eighteenth-century chemistry while also recognizing the importance of the work of Lavoisier and anti-phlogistic chemistry is Ernst von Meyer, A History of Chemistry from Earliest Times to the Present Day, trans. George McGowan (London: Macmillan, 1898).Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Douglas McKie, Antoine Lavoisier, The Father of Modern Chemistry (London: V. Gollancz, Ltd., 1935) and, more pertinently, Antoine Lavoisier, Scientist, Economist, Social Reformer (New York: H. Schuman, 1952); J. R. Partington, A Short History of Chemistry (New York: Macmillan, 1937). An American history of the period, The Historical Background of Chemistry, by Henry M. Leicester (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1965; first edition 1956) is somewhat different in that it treats both the phlogiston theory and the theory of affinity as eighteenth-century background.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Maurice Daumas, Lavoisier théoricien et expérimentateur (Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 1955).Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Case 2: The Overthrow of the Phlogiston Theory: The Chemical Revolution of 1775–1789,” in Harvard Case Histories in Experimental Sciences, 2 vols. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1957), 1: 65–115.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 2nd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970), 53–60, 69–72, 86, 118 and passim.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Henry Guerlac, Lavoisier – the Crucial Year: The Background and Origin of His First Experiments on Combustion in 1772 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1961).Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Guerlac himself expressed reservations about the “overthrow of the phlogiston theory” narrative in the introduction to Lavoisier – the Crucial Year, xvii: “An equally common appraisal of the Chemical Revolution makes it tantamount to the overthrow of the Becher–Stahl phlogistic theory of combustion. But this says at once too much and too little; it exaggerates the break with the past; it neglects the accumulated body of old and recent factual knowledge that was absorbed unaltered by the newer chemistry; and it overlooks the point that something more fundamental occurred than the mere substitution of one theory of combustion for another, centrally important though this proved to be.”Google Scholar
  11. Some of the suggested emendations can be found in the papers in The Chemical Revolution: Essays in Reinterpretation, ed. Arthur Donovan, Osiris 4, 1988. J. B. Gough, “Lavoisier and the Fulfillment of the Stahlian Revolution,” (15–33) and Robert Siegfried, “The Chemical Revolution in the History of Chemistry,” (34–50) are especially relevant. A good recent summary of the historiography of emendations to the Chemical Revolution narrative is found in Frederic L. Holmes, “The Boundaries of Lavoisier’s Chemical Revolution,” Revue d’histoire des sciences 48, 1995, 11–13.Google Scholar
  12. 11.
    I.e. the phlogiston theory (although Stahl himself received virtually no historical study) and the British pneumatic chemical tradition from Stephen Hales to Priestley.Google Scholar
  13. 12.
    Herbert Butterfield, The Origins of Modern Science (New York: Macmillan, 1959), ch. 11. The work was first published in 1949 but the text of this chapter was changed significantly between editions.Google Scholar
  14. 13.
    Ibid., 198–99.Google Scholar
  15. 14.
    Ibid., 200. He did see the development of industrial chemistry and pharmacology as positive developments. Interestingly, the 1949 first edition lacks the entire paragraph.Google Scholar
  16. 15.
    Thomas L. Hankins, Science and the Enlightenment (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), 81. By this, he meant that chemistry was largely ancillary to medicine and pharmacy.Google Scholar
  17. 16.
    The phrase “invention of chemistry as a discipline” is on 153. As Frederic L. Holmes noted, a work prior to Hannaway’s had identified the emergence in the early eighteenth century of “a science of chemistry … from the matrix of natural philosophy, medicine, alchemy, and technology.” This was Robert P. Multhauf’s The Origins of Chemistry (New York: Franklin Watts, 1966), 349. See Frederic L. Holmes, “Concepts, Operations, and the Problem of ‘Modernity’ in Early Modern Chemistry,” Fundamental Concepts of Early Modern Chemistry in the Context of the Operational and Experimental Practice (Berlin: Max Planck Institute, 1995 [Preprint 25]), 50.Google Scholar
  18. 17.
    Allen G. Debus, The English Paracelsians (New York: F. Watts, 1965); Betty Jo Teeter Dobbs, The Foundation of Newton’s Alchemy, or “The Hunting of the Green Lyon” (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1975), to cite two classic texts. In the 1990s and later, research on the history of seventeenth-century “chymistry” (chemistry and alchemy) was greatly augmented by the publications of Wiliam Newman and Lawrence Principe.Google Scholar
  19. 18.
    Recently, William Newman and Lawrence Principe have argued that a methodological tradition anticipating many features of late eighteenth-century – and even Lavoisian – chemistry originated with Joan Baptista Van Helmont and was extended by George Starkey (“Eirenaeus Philalethes”); Alchemy Tried in the Fire: Starkey, Boyle and the Fate of Helmontian Chymistry (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002).Google Scholar
  20. 19.
    Arnold Thackray, Atoms and Powers:An Essay on Newtonian Matter – Theory and the Development of Chemistry (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1970).Google Scholar
  21. 20.
    By the 1990s, interest in eighteenth-century chemical application re-emerged in, for instance, Jan Golinski, Science as Public Culture: Chemistry and Enlightenment in Britain, 1760–1820 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992).Google Scholar
  22. 21.
    Frederic L. Holmes, “Analysis by Fire and Solvent Extractions: The Metamorphosis of a Tradition,” Isis 62, 1971, 129–48; Lavoisier and the Chemistry of Life: An Exploration of Scientific Creativity (Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1985).Google Scholar
  23. 22.
    Frederic Lawrence Holmes, Eighteenth-Century Chemistry as an Investigative Enterprise (Berkeley, CA:Office of the History of Science, 1989), 3.Google Scholar
  24. 23.
  25. 24.
    Ibid., 47. Holmes contrasted this with the German university pedagogical objective, e.g. of Georg Ernst Stahl.Google Scholar
  26. 25.
    Ibid., 83.Google Scholar
  27. 26.
    Ibid., 101. In the concluding lecture, Holmes returned to the Chemical Revolution itself to say that “If my portrayal of earlier eighteenth century chemistry is valid, then the chemical revolution cannot have overturned the science of chemistry as a whole, or transformed certain extensive areas of a science whose scope exceeded those areas.” 107.Google Scholar
  28. 27.
    Ursula Klein, “Experimental Practice and Layers of Knowledge in Early Modern Chemistry I, II and III,” 73–127 in Fundamental Concepts of Early Modern Chemistry. She sees the emergence of this view of chemical combination as associated with changes in pharmaceutical practices of drug preparation, particularly the substitute of inorganic materials prepared by dissolution rather than the earlier dry distillation of organic substances.Google Scholar
  29. 28.
    Affinity, That Elusive Dream: A Genealogy of the Chemical Revolution (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2003).Google Scholar
  30. 29.
    Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982.Google Scholar
  31. 30.
    Edinburgh: University Press, 1975.Google Scholar
  32. 31.
    Kim comes closest in this regard. Although incorporating the standard dramatic narrative of the Chemical Revolution into her own narrative, Kim tries to embed that narrative into a much vaster one and, at the same time, to de-center it from its dominant position.Google Scholar
  33. 32.
    Trevor Levere’s paper touches on Thomas Beddoes’ conversion to anti-phlogistic chemistry.Google Scholar
  34. 33.
    B. S. Capp, English Almanacs, 1500–1800: Astrology and the Popular Press (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1979). See also Margaret C. Jacob, Scientific Culture and the Making of the Industrial West (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), especially 87–96; Michael Heyd, Be Sober and Reasonable: The Critique of Enthusiasm in the Seventeenth and Early Eighteenth Centuries (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1995).Google Scholar
  35. 34.
    Principe, in his opening essay to this volume, suggests something similar to my speculation when he notes that the denigration of alchemy was particularly strong in the French and British national scientific societies “concerned about their corporate image, and thus the status of chemistry and chemists.”Google Scholar
  36. 35.
    Multhauf discusses many of these chemical crafts in Origins of Chemistry.Google Scholar
  37. 36.
    Allen G. Debus, “Chemistry and the Universities in the Seventeenth Century,” Academiae Analecta, Mededelingen van de Koninklijke Academie voor Wetenschappen Letteren en Schone Kunsten van Belgie, Klasse der Wetenschappen, 48, no. 4, 1986, 15–33; Christoph Meinel, “Artibus Academicis Inserenda: Chemistry’s Place in Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Century Universities,” History of Universities 7, 1988, 89–115.Google Scholar
  38. 37.
    “Subjection of nature’s forces to man, machinery, application of chemistry to industry and agriculture, steam navigation, railways, electric telegraphs, clearing of whole continents for cultivation, canalization or rivers, whole populations conjured out of the ground – what earlier century had even a presentiment that such productive forces slumbered in the lap of social labor?” Communist Manifesto, quoted in: My italics.
  39. 38.
    Chymia 5, 1959, 73–112.Google Scholar
  40. 39.
    Guerlac, Lavoisier, xvii.Google Scholar
  41. 40.
    A classic example is A.E. Musson and Eric Robinson, Science and Technology in the Industrial Revolution (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1969).Google Scholar
  42. 41.
    Karl Wilhelm Scheele is virtually the only exception.Google Scholar
  43. 42.
    In the most recent survey of the history of eighteenth-century chemical composition, the German tradition of analytical chemistry gets not a mention. Robert Siegfried, From Elements to Atoms: A History of Chemical Composition, Transactions of the American Philosophical Society 92, pt. 4, 2002.Google Scholar
  44. 43.
    Bernadette Bensaude-Vincent and Isabelle Stengers, Histoire de la Chimie (Paris: Éditions la Découverte, 1993), p. 61.Google Scholar
  45. 44.
    A brilliant case study of this process is found in Jonathan Simon, Chemistry, Pharmacy, and Revolution in France, 1777–1809 (Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2005).Google Scholar

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© Springer 2007

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  • Seymour Mauskopf

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