Alchemy and Chemistry: Chemical Discourses in the Seventeenth Century

in Early Science and Medicine
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Abstract

The landscape of seventeenth-century chemistry is complex, and it is impossible to find in it either a clear-cut distinction between alchemy and chemistry or a sort of simple identification of the two. The seventeenth-century cultural context contained a rich variety of "chemical" discourses with arguments ranging from specific experiments to the justification of the validity of chemistry and its novelty in terms of its extraordinary antiquity. On the basis of an analysis of the works by O. Borch, J.J. Glauber, and J. J. Becher, this paper tries to demonstrate that a historical reconstruction of "chemistry" must consider these different levels of the chemical debate. Only then will it be possible to appreciate the outstanding role played by G.E. Stahl in founding modern chemistry. The paper argues in favor of a contextualization of the historical research on seventeenth-century chemistry.

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