Using the notion of a disciplinary "identity" analogous to ethnic or national identity, Nye develops a theory of the nature of disciplinary structure and change. She discusses the distinctive character of chemical language and theories and the role of national styles and traditions in building a scientific discipline. Anyone interested in the history of scientific thought will enjoy pondering with her the question of whether chemists of the mid-twentieth century suspected chemical explanation had been reduced to physical laws, just as Newtonian mechanical philosophers had envisioned in the eighteenth century.
The strategy followed uses a series of chemical textbooks, separated from each other by fifty year periods (1750, 1800, 1850, and 1900), to follow the historical formation of consensus practices. The three chapters deal with one subfield of chemistry in the century in which it was developed: eighteenth-century inorganic chemistry, nineteenth-century organic chemistry, and nineteenth-century physical chemistry. This book creates a model of a scientific field capable of accommodating the variation and differentiation evident in the history of scientific practice. DeLanda proposes a model that is made of three components: a domain of phenomena, a community of practitioners, and a set of instruments and techniques connecting the community to the domain.
Philosophical Chemistry will be essential reading for those engaged in emergent, radical and contemporary strands of thought in the philosophy of science and for those scholars and students who strive to practice a productive dialogue between the two disciplines.
Arguing that visual mental images regularly assisted many of these scientists in thinking through old problems and new possibilities, Rocke uses a variety of sources, including private correspondence, diagrams and illustrations, scientific papers, and public statements, to investigate their ability to not only imagine the invisibly tiny atoms and molecules upon which they operated daily, but to build detailed and empirically based pictures of how all of the atoms in complicated molecules were interconnected. These portrayals of “chemical structures,” both as mental images and as paper tools, gradually became an accepted part of science during these years and are now regarded as one of the central defining features of chemistry. In telling this fascinating story in a manner accessible to the lay reader, Rocke also suggests that imagistic thinking is often at the heart of creative thinking in all fields.
Image and Reality is the first book in the Synthesis series, a series in the history of chemistry, broadly construed, edited by Angela N. H. Creager, John E. Lesch, Stuart W. Leslie, Lawrence M. Principe, Alan Rocke, E.C. Spary, and Audra J. Wolfe, in partnership with the Chemical Heritage Foundation.