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Van Helmont, Salts, And Natural History In Early Modern England

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Chapter Summary

Royal Society figures such as Martin Lister, Robert Moray, and Nehemiah Grew interpreted Van Helmont's chymical work quite independently of Boyle for the purposes of their own work in natural history, a topic to which this chapter briefs contextual analysis of the role of salts in Helmontian chymistry. Van Helmont’s theories of the elements and salt differed greatly from those of Paracelsus. The long-established tradition voiced by Paracelsus about a vital nitrous salt in the air, subsequently modified by Van Helmont in his theory of human breath, also plays a role. Grew’s work, as well as the natural philosophy of Philipot, Moray, and Lister demonstrated chymistry’s status as both creative art and science. The tensions between early modern conceptions of matter that stressed chemical mechanism as well as vital principles, and the differing conceptions of elemental principles.

Keywords: England; Helmontian chymistry; Martin Lister; natural history; Nehemiah Grew; Paracelsus; Robert Boyle; Robert Moray; salts; Van Helmont



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