Laws and Order in Eighteenth-century Chemistry

Duncan, Alistair
Date published: 
April 1996

The eighteenth century was the formative period in which chemistry established itself as an autonomous discipline with its own concepts and modes of explanation, independent of mathematical physics. Yet much previous writing in this area has concentrated on theories derived from more traditionally respectable branches of knowledge such as physics. This book traces the transition from the chemists' point of view, through the evolution of notions of chemical affinity and attraction, the physicists' attempts to explain chemica l combination and chemists' development of their own models. It describes the growth of affinity tables, which chemists hoped would lead to the induction of predictive laws, and which represented their unofficial list of elements which eventually through the work of Lavoisier replaced the traditional Aristotelian list. The book also discusses chemists' efforts to account for double decomposition, to measure affinity or attraction quantitativley, to classify types of affinity and to state laws of chemistry.

This book traces the transition of chemistry from alchemy to an autonomous science, emancipated from physics, through theories of affinity and attraction.

Covers important aspects of eighteenth century chemistry about which little has been published

Describes attempts to find predictive laws of chemistry

Based on extensive original research, especially on affinity tables