Ideas in Chemistry

Ideas in Chemistry

A History of the Science

Book - 1992
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Rutgers University Press

In this unconventional history of chemistry, David Knight takes the refreshing view that the science has "its glorious future behind it." Today, chemistry is primarily a service science. In its very long history, though, chemistry has taken on very different roles. It has been the esoteric preoccupation of alchemists, the source of mechanist views of matter, the cornerstone of all other sciences and medicine, an archetype of experimental science, a science of revolutions, a science that imposed order on the material world, and a partner for physics, biology, and technology.

Through all these past lives, chemistry has absorbed ideasÑfrom artisans, from other sciences, from philosophy, from its social and cultural matrixÑand generated its own concepts to pass back to the rest of the world. Rather than writing a survey of chemistry's triumphs, Knight covers the course of its intellectual and institutional history through carefully chosen episodes that display the complex mix of experiment, theory, application, social attitude, tradition, luck, and human quirkiness that have shaped chemistry's changing character.

This delightfully written book should engage the attention of anyone interested in the interplay of science and ideas, whether a general reader, a student, a scientist, or historian of science.


In this unconventional history of chemistry, David Knight takes the refreshing view that the science has "its glorious future behind it." Today, chemistry is primarily a service science. In its very long history, though, chemistry has taken on very different roles. It has been the esoteric preoccupation of alchemists, the source of mechanist views of matter, the cornerstone of all other sciences and medicine, an archetype of experimental science, a science of revolutions, a science that imposed order on the material world, and a partner for physics, biology, and technology.

Through all these past lives, chemistry has absorbed ideas--from artisans, from other sciences, from philosophy, from its social and cultural matrix--and generated its own concepts to pass back to the rest of the world. Rather than writing a survey of chemistry's triumphs, Knight covers the course of its intellectual and institutional history through carefully chosen episodes that display the complex mix of experiment, theory, application, social attitude, tradition, luck, and human quirkiness that have shaped chemistry's changing character.

This delightfully written book should engage the attention of anyone interested in the interplay of science and ideas, whether a general reader, a student, a scientist, or historian of science.



Publisher: New Brunswick, N.J. : Rutgers University Press, 1992
ISBN: 0813518369 (pbk.)
0813518350 (cloth)
Branch Call Number: 540.9 KNI
Characteristics: 213 p. ; 23 cm

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