Response to a letter to the editor

Foundations of Chemistry 16 (2):169-170 (2013)
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Professor Needham tells me that I have misunderstood him, and I am sure he is right that I need to work harder to understand his arguments more fully and more precisely. But he has also misunderstood me, as well—no doubt because I have not expressed myself as carefully as I ought to have done. He writes that I have “clearly” argued that “the only possibility of representing nineteenth-century chemistry as a theoretical pursuit” is based on chemical atomism. I do not believe that. For instance, Lavoisien antiphlogistic theory at the beginning of the century, and chemical thermodynamics and certain aspects of reaction dynamics a few decades later, did not depend on an atomistic view of nature.I do plead guilty to the claim that “at the heart of the theoretical achievement” of nineteenth-century chemistry stood “atomic and molecular theory”. But Professor Needham believes that nineteenth-century atomism did not provide chemistry with any explanations. Since I take it that a principal goal ..



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