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Tracing The History Of Chemistry

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Chapter Summary

Johann Wilhelm Ritter's essay, the "Attempt at a History of the Fate of Chemical Theory in the Past Centuries", is the culmination of a "task" assigned to him by one of the "first statesmen in Bavaria, whom the new flourishing of the sciences in this land has to thank for the greatest possible personal engagement, in addition to the greatest ministerial interest". The political interests behind the assignment to write the history of chemistry cannot be mistaken, given that this history had a traditional rivalry between French and German theories during the eighteenth century. The early reference to Goethe's work on metamorphosis in particular, the elegy on plant metamorphosis of 1798 can be construed as an attempt by Ritter to anchor himself in the methodology of a scientist whose work addressed the same problem, and one can read Ritter's essay as a logical extension of Goethe's theory of metamorphosis.

Keywords: French chemistry; Goethe's theory; Johann Wilhelm Ritter; metamorphosis



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