The Evolution of Chemistry: A History of Its Ideas, Methods, and Materials

The Evolution of Chemistry: A History of Its Ideas, Methods, and Materials

The Evolution of Chemistry: A History of Its Ideas, Methods, and Materials

The Evolution of Chemistry: A History of Its Ideas, Methods, and Materials

Excerpt

The scientific approach to reality consists of separating our experiences into simple parts so as to see them more clearly, and of connecting these parts so as to knowingly reconstruct what impressed us. This seems to be a complicated kind of approach. We use two steps, analysis and synthesis, and we have to create intricate relationships between them because separately they are contradictory and sterile. Is it not better to use the direct method of understanding reality as one whole? The inspirational feeling which refuses both analysis and synthesis is strong but it is mute. The German poet Friedrich Schiller expressed our inability to communicate our deepest feelings with these words: "When the soul speaks, alas, it is no longer the soul that speaks!" Science is the effort to find the language of the soul.

It is an effort which has needed time for its development. The process is still going on. Its accelerated pace does not seem to bring us closer to perfection. There is a meaningful irony in the fact that the more exact the methods of science which we develop, the more inaccessible does living reality appear to become. In art we have attained perfection at various times. Works of painting, sculpture, and music which were created centuries ago have remained unsurpassed. They are ageless parts of our culture. Science is always moving away from its past. New discoveries, while adding to the treasure of our knowledge, at the same time reveal wider fields of our ignorance. As a consequence, what seemed to form the end of an inquiry just means the possibility of a new beginning.

Thus time plays a dominant and continuous role in science, and history should therefore be an important part of the equipment which we use in continuing to build science. A. N. Whitehead, the mathematical physicist and philosopher, once said: "What our students should learn is how to face the future with the aid of the past." The history of science can furnish this aid when it is presented as the story of human development. When teaching present-day science . . .

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