Distilling knowledge alchemy chemistry and the scientific revolution

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distilling knowledge alchemy chemistry and the scientific revolution

Distilling Knowledge: Alchemy, Chemistry, and the Scientific Revolution by Bruce T. Moran

Alchemy cant be science--common sense tells us as much. But perhaps common sense is not the best measure of what science is, or was. In this book, Bruce Moran looks past contemporary assumptions and prejudices to determine what alchemists were actually doing in the context of early modern science. Examining the ways alchemy and chemistry were studied and practiced between 1400 and 1700, he shows how these approaches influenced their respective practitioners ideas about nature and shaped their inquiries into the workings of the natural world. His work sets up a dialogue between what historians have usually presented as separate spheres; here we see how alchemists and early chemists exchanged ideas and methods and in fact shared a territory between their two disciplines.

Distilling Knowledge suggests that scientific revolution may wear a different appearance in different cultural contexts. The metaphor of the Scientific Revolution, Moran argues, can be expanded to make sense of alchemy and other so-called pseudo-sciences--by including a new framework in which process can count as an object, in which making leads to learning, and in which the messiness of conflict leads to discernment. Seen on its own terms, alchemy can stand within the bounds of demonstrative science.
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Difference between Alchemy and Chemistry

Book Review

Alchemy can't be science--common sense tells us as much. But perhaps common sense is not the best measure of what science is, or was. In this book, Bruce Moran looks past contemporary assumptions and prejudices to determine what alchemists were actually doing in the context of early modern science. Examining the ways alchemy and chemistry were studied and practiced between and , he shows how these approaches influenced their respective practitioners' ideas about nature and shaped their inquiries into the workings of the natural world. His work sets up a dialogue between what historians have usually presented as separate spheres; here we see how alchemists and early chemists exchanged ideas and methods and in fact shared a territory between their two disciplines. Distilling Knowledge suggests that scientific revolution may wear a different appearance in different cultural contexts.

New Histories of Science, Technology and Medicine. Cambridge, Mass. He provides a representative cluster of narratives illustrating the trials and tribulations of alchemists and chemists from the Middle Ages to the Enlightenment. The target readership seems to be students of the history of science. Some passages are evidently written with a young student in mind and have a distinctive, almost avuncular tone; others, however, seem to assume a certain amount of prior knowledge of the subject, and the bibliography includes some extremely worthwhile, but also more than a little advanced, literature for a reader who has suddenly been transmuted from anglophone neophyte into polyglot adept. I would not go so far as to state that the six chapters of Distilling Knowledge introduce the novice to alchemy per se; rather we have an engaging survey of European alchemists and early chemists, in which we briefly encounter a lively crowd of physicians, philosophers, and artisans, including, I am pleased to say, some women practitioners, along with their works and publications—it is refreshing to see the Opus mulierum being taken as more than a metaphor. In fewer than two hundred pages of text, with the occasional illustration, Moran covers a lot of ground.

Lauren Kassell, Bruce T.
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Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date. For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now. Javascript is not enabled in your browser. Enabling JavaScript in your browser will allow you to experience all the features of our site. Learn how to enable JavaScript on your browser. But perhaps common sense is not the best measure of what science is, or was. In this book, Bruce Moran looks past contemporary assumptions and prejudices to determine what alchemists were actually doing in the context of early modern science.

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