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The Significance Of “Chymical Atomism”

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Chapter Summary

Chymical atomism is a theory whose origins lie in an unusual fusion of alchemical, medical, and philosophical concepts already present in the thirteenth century. The word "chymical" as a means of simultaneously linking this form of atomism to the chemical atomism of the nineteenth century, which is its descendant, and freeing it from too strict an association with the chemistry of John Dalton and his heirs. Antoine Laurent Lavoisier's language of molécules or parties that are constitutives et intégrantes and whose existence is revealed by analysis derives directly from the tradition of chymical corpuscular theory espoused by George Ernst Stahl and his followers. His reliance on laboratory analysis to arrive at the molécules primitives of bodies therefore belongs to a chymical tradition extending back through Stahl, Robert Boyle, and others well into the Middle Ages.

Keywords: Antoine Laurent Lavoisier; chymical atomism; George Ernst Stahl; John Dalton; molécules; Robert Boyle



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