The Saline Chymistry of Color in Seventeenth-Century English Natural History

In: Early Science and Medicine
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  • 1 University of Lincoln

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Before Newton’s seminal work on the spectrum, seventeenth-century English natural philosophers such as Robert Boyle, Robert Hooke, Nehemiah Grew and Robert Plot attributed the phenomenon of color in the natural world to salts and saline chymistry. They rejected Aristotelian ideas that color was related to the object’s hot and cold qualities, positing instead that saline principles governed color and color changes in flora, fauna and minerals. In our study, we also characterize to what extent chymistry was a basic analytical tool for seventeenth-century English natural historians.

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