HPS211H1 Lecture Notes - Chemical Revolution, Western Esotericism, Phlogiston Theory

History and Philosophy of Science and Technology
Course Code
Curtis Forbes

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2/6/2013 12:32:00 PM
Lecture 4: The Chemical Revolution: Lavoisier’s Oxygen Chemistry
The Chemical revolution
1. Chemistry : The Science of Substance
Interchangeably called alchemy : both referred to science of
substantial change
Esotericism and Secrecy : there were lots of secrecy involved,
people wanted to capitalize this. People would encode it even
further once they found out it was novel.
Alchemy vs. Chemistry: Alchemy about taking one thing and
changing it into another.
Chemistry as Taxonomy: Identification, classification of substances
= taxonomy
Elements and Principles: periodic table, etc. People didn’t always
think of it this way.
Richard Boyle: demonstrate the futility of two systems.
o Didn’t come up with any system of his own
2. Pneumatic Chemistry : the chemistry of air or gas
Hales: pneumatic troph, air as the homogenous substance
Joseph Black: unlike Hales, air as having different properties
sometimes. Air came in varieties with different substances.
o “fixed air” like carbon dioxide.
o Balance scale
3. Priestley’s Phlogiston Chemistry : didn’t want to give up on chemistry
Radical Politics : openly supported both French and American
New “airs” – paid attention to quantitative and qualitative
properties of air. phlogisticated air, Co2 was normal air to him filled
with Phlogiston and oxygen was stripped off phlogiston
Phlogiston : to him air would soak on phlogiston.
Experiments: he used mice a lot. He experimented with amounts of
phlogiston in the air.
Explanatory value of “phlogiston” – unified explanation of various
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