Chymistry and Chemistry

William R. Newman. Atoms and Alchemy: Chymistry and the Experimental Origins of the Scientific Revolution. University of Chicago Press, 2006.

The Whig view of history asserts that the work of Robert Boyle, widely regarded as the founder of modern chemistry, marked a decisive shift away from traditional alchemy and was largely inspired by the new mechanical philosophy of Isaac Newton. In this book, William Newton challenges this view, and argues that the medieval and early modern alchemists and "chymists" were already pursuing a programme of experimental science, and one that was to have a major impact on Boyle, particularly through the work of the Lutheran Daniel Sennert (1572-1637).

A challenging academic work, likely to be of interest to students of the history of chemistry and of science in general. While the general reader is unlikely to wish to pursue the minutia of the arguments discussed here, it is worth noting as further challenge to the view of a radical contradiction between "medieval superstition" and "rational science".


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