Postpositivist Interpretations of the Chemical Revolution. (1) (Abstract/Resume Analytique)

By McEvoy, John | Canadian Journal of History, December 2001 | Go to article overview

Postpositivist Interpretations of the Chemical Revolution. (1) (Abstract/Resume Analytique)


McEvoy, John, Canadian Journal of History


Since its inception in the Enlightenment, the discipline of the history of science has occupied a contested intellectual terrain, shaped by philosophical and ideological forces associated with the development and cultural entanglements of science itself. While Enlightenment figures like Joseph Priestley and Adam Smith viewed the history of science as a species of "philosophical history," religiously-minded scholars as diverse as Priestley, Pierre Duhem, and Stanley Jaki used it in the conflict between scientific and religious cultures, and nineteenth-century positivists appropriated it to the justificatory needs of science itself. More recently, philosophers and sociologists of science have appealed to the history of science to settle their heated controversies about the nature of science and its relation to society. (2) As a result of this rich and turbulent history, modern historians of science are faced with a bewildering array of interpretive strategies for making sense of the historical development of science, Sensitive to the growing complexity of their discipline and the problems this poses for its future development and effective interaction with allied fields and disciplines, many historians of science have developed a reflexive interest in the methods, as well as the objects, of their inquiries. (3) Adopting Collingwood's dictum that "no historical problem should be studied without studying ... the history of historical thought about it," some historians of science have become interested in "the history of science as history." (4) As a manifestation of this interest, this paper offers a critical account of recent developments in the historiography of the Chemical Revolution, which is designed to guide the work of future specialists in the field and to solicit the interest and input of more general historians.

The Chemical Revolution occurred towards the end of the eighteenth century. Centered on the transition from the phlogiston theory of combustion to the oxygen theory of chemistry, the Chemical Revolution involved a transformation in the ontology, epistemology, methodology, language, instruments, and institutions of chemistry. (5) The conflict between the "antiphlogistic" system of chemistry, which viewed combustion as a combination with oxygen gas, and its "phlogistic" predecessor and rival, which treated combustion as the release of phlogiston (the principle of inflammability thought to be present in all combustible substances), is usually associated with the names of two scientists, Antoine Lavoisier and Joseph Priestley, who shared the rational and liberal principles of the philosophes. The Chemical Revolution was a child of the Enlightenment, and its major protagonists paid a high price -- Lavoisier with his life and Priestley with his home and country -- when they carried their Enlightenment ideals into the political arena. (6) Attentive to the proximity of the Chemical Revolution and the American and French Revolutions, proponents and opponents of the new chemistry shared an exhilarating sense of living in an "age of revolutions, philosophical as well as civil." (7) If the French Revolution involved the dawning of the modern political order, the Chemical Revolution heralded the beginning of modern chemistry. The thesis that the origins of modern chemistry involved a fundamental break with tradition united subsequent scholars of diverse historiographical sensibilities and otherwise incompatible philosophical persuasions.

Until recently, historians of science gave the Chemical Revolution short shrift. Lost in the wake of the Scientific Revolution of the seventeenth century, which involved the birth of modern science itself, and eclipsed by the Darwinian Revolution of the nineteenth century, which evoked passionate debates about the origins of life and human destiny, the more prosaic issues associated with the Chemical Revolution attracted the interest of only a small number of historians and historically-minded chemists. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Postpositivist Interpretations of the Chemical Revolution. (1) (Abstract/Resume Analytique)
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.