Berthelot's anti-atomism: A 'matter of taste'?

Annals of Science 38 (5):585-590 (1981)
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The influential French chemist Marcelin Berthelot spoke against the use of Dalton's atomic theory and Avogadro's hypothesis in the second half of the nineteenth century. This paper argues that Berthelot conceded that atomism might be acceptable as a system of conventions, but he feared the power of such conventions in constructing a realistic picture of atoms which was not warranted empirically. Equally, Berthelot's anti-atomism was a last-ditch effort to assert the place of chemistry within the tradition of natural history and to deny the possible reduction of chemical science to the laws of nineteenth-century physics



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