The Salt of the Earth

Natural Philosophy, Medicine, and Chymistry in England, 1650-1750


Consisting of a series of case studies, this book is devoted to the concept and uses of salt in early modern science, which have played a crucial role in the evolution of matter theory from Aristotelian concepts of the elements to Newtonian chymistry. No reliable study on this subject has been previously available. Its exploration of natural history’s and medicine’s intersection with chemical investigation in early modern England demonstrates the growing importance of the senses and experience as causes of intellectual change from 1650-1750. It demonstrates that an understanding of the changing definitions of “salt” is also crucial to a historical comprehension of the transition between alchemy and chemistry.
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Biographical Note

Anna Marie Roos, Ph.D. (1997) in History, University of Colorado, is a research associate at the Wellcome Unit at Oxford University. She has published extensively in the history of science including Luminaries in the Natural World (Peter Lang, 2001).

Review Quotes

"... The Salt of the Earth is a work that meets a high scholarly standard in both form and substance; it should be of interest to any student of early modern chemistry, medicine, and natural philosophy in general."
Victor D. Boantza, Book Reviews - ISIS, 100: 1 (2009), 166-167 pp.

Table of contents

List of Illustrations

1. The Context of Salts
2. Paracelsian Concepts of Salts
3. Van Helmont, Salts, and Natural History in Early Modern England
4. From Salts to Saline Spirits—the Rise of Acids
5. Salts and Saline Spirits in the Medical Marketplace and Literature—Patent Medicines and Chymical Satire

Conclusion: From Saline Acids to Acidifying Oxygen

Appendix: Translation from Latin of Martin Lister’s Exercises on the Healing Springs of England (1684)



All those interested in intellectual history, history of science, the history of chemistry, early modern natural history, and medicine.


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