Reporting the discovery of new chemical elements: working in different worlds, only 25 years apart

Foundations of Chemistry 22 (2):137-146 (2019)
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In his account of scientific revolutions, Thomas Kuhn suggests that after a revolutionary change of theory, it is as if scientists are working in a different world. In this paper, we aim to show that the notion of world change is insightful. We contrast the reporting of the discovery of neon in 1898 with the discovery of hafnium in 1923. The one discovery was made when elements were identified by their atomic weight; the other discovery was made after scientists came to classify elements by their atomic number. By considering two instances of the reporting of the discovery of a new chemical element 25 years apart, we argue that it becomes clear how chemists can be said to have been responding to different worlds as a result of the change in the concept of a chemical element. They saw, did, and reported different things as they conducted their research on the new chemical elements.



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Line Edslev Andersen
Aarhus University
K. Brad Wray
Aarhus University

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References found in this work

A Tale of Seven Elements.Eric R. Scerri - 2013 - New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
The atomic number revolution in chemistry: a Kuhnian analysis.K. Brad Wray - 2017 - Foundations of Chemistry 20 (3):209-217.
Conceptual Changes in Chemistry: The Notion of a Chemical Element, ca. 1900–1925.Helge Kragh - 2000 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 31 (4):435-450.

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