Master of Arts (MA)
Scholars have made the argument that during the eighteenth century “alchemy” came increasingly to be seen as a fraudulent science or a science for charlatans, while chemistry retained its intellectual prestige. Around the same time "alchemy" and "chemistry" began their divergence, the legitimacy of science came increasingly to depend on public demonstrations. The term chymistry has become accepted amongst scholars of the field when discussing this etymologically complicated period when the terms alchemy and chemistry were both used by contemporaries to describe the field of knowledge without the distinctions that are placed on the terms today.
This study examines 1,029 articles in thirteen early learned journals published in English, French, Italian, and Latin in Europe from 1665 to 1743. They included articles detailing experiments, observations, and medical practices performed with chymistry. As a whole, these sources grant us the ability to trace the evolution of scientific communication and to measure the newly forming social interest in science.
Examining chymistry through early learned journals allows us to examine this change through a medium which catered to a community of European readers interested in the topic of chymistry. I argue in this thesis that secondary textual analysis of these articles reveals that the journals reflect the slow but steady evolutionary change of the chimeric field of chymistry. While alchemical understanding persisted, the journals do demonstrate a gradual shift toward a more modern chemistry had begun by the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. The large body of sources comprised of the early learned journals allows the historian both to review discussions focused on chymistry authored at the time of the well-documented divergence of alchemy and chemistry in the late seventeenth century, and to understand better how new forms of media developed to serve and shape public interest in science. Analyses of these articles reveal not only the books and articles readers expected would best help them to understand chymistry but also the language, specific chymistry terminology, and experiments done by chymists that can help us trace the different fates of "alchemy" and "chemistry" within early modern chymistry.
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Arceneaux, Amanda J., "The Slow Evolution of a Chimeric Field: Perceptions of Chymistry Through Early Learned Journals, 1665-1743" (2017). LSU Master's Theses. 4436.