Foundations of Chemistry 10 (3) (2008)
|Abstract||This is the third of a series of essays on the development and reception of Wilhelm Ostwald’s energetics. The first essay described the chemical origins of Ostwald’s interest in the energy concept and his motivations for seeking a comprehensive science of energy. The second essay and the present one discuss his various attempts, beginning in 1891 and extending over almost 3 years, to develop a consistent and coherent energetic theory. A final essay will consider reactions to this work and Ostwald’s replies, and will also seek to evaluate his program of research. Ostwald’s project—to reconstruct physics and chemistry “as a pure energetics”—is worth attending to for several reasons: first, because Ostwald did ground-breaking work in chemistry (he was awarded a Nobel Prize in 1909 for his studies in catalysis and rates of reaction); second, because an important school of physical chemistry formed around him at Leipzig, a school that promoted his ideas; and, finally, because he was a prominent and vigorous participant in debates at the end of the nineteenth century concerning the proper course of physical theory.|
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