Summary Robert Boyle did not subordinate chemistry to mechanical philosophy. He was in fact reluctant to explain chemical phenomena by having recourse to the mechanical properties of particles. For him chemistry provided a primary way of penetrating into nature. In his chemical works he employed corpuscles endowed with chemical properties as his explanans. Boyle's chemistry was corpuscular, rather than mechanical. As Boyle's views of seminal principles show, his corpuscular philosophy cannot be described as a purely mechanical theory of matter. Boyle's (...) classification of corpuscles allowed him to connect his corpuscular views of matter with chemistry. Boyle did not rule out the possibility of a classification of chemical substances based on their properties: his aim was to reform the received classification. (shrink)
In seventeenth-century England agriculturalists, projectors and natural philosophers devoted special attention to the chemical investigation of plants, of soil composition and of fertilizers. Hugh Plat’s and Francis Bacon’s works became particularly influential in the mid-seventeenth century, and inspired much of the Hartlib Circle’s schemes and research for improving agriculture. The Hartlibians turned to chemistry in order to provide techniques for improving soil and to investigate plant generation and growth. They drew upon the Paracelsian chemistry of salts, as well as upon (...) the works of van Helmont and Glauber. Benjamin Worsley, Boyle’s scientific companion in the 1640s and 1650s, played a leading role in the Hartlib Circle’s research on saltpetre and on fertilizers. The Hartlib Circle’s research in agricultural chemistry shaped much of the research carried out by the Royal Society in the 1660s and in the 1670s. Daniel Coxe, who adopted Boyle’s chemical theories and pursued original experimental research on the composition of plants, played a central part in the early Royal Society’s agricultural projects and notably in the investigations of plants. (shrink)
Van Helmont's chemistry and medicine played a prominent part in the seventeenth-century opposition to Aristotelian natural philosophy and to Galenic medicine. Helmontian works, which rapidly achieved great notoriety all over Europe, gave rise to the most influential version of the chemical philosophy. Helmontian terms such as Archeus, Gas and Alkahest all became part of the accepted vocabulary of seventeenth-century science and medicine.