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A Batavian in Paris

A Batavian in Paris

(p.67) 2 A Batavian in Paris
The Transmutations of Chymistry
Lawrence M. Principe
University of Chicago Press

Chapter 2 examines the content and status of chymistry at the seventeenth-century Académie. Central to this analysis is the institution’s project to compile a “History of Plants” that included the chymical analysis of plant materials. This project illustrates the tug-of-war between two competing visions for chymistry at the Académie. One, narrow and pedestrian, directed towards producing practical results for medicine, and the other, grander and more ambitious directed towards producing natural philosophical knowledge about the world, its composition, and chymical transformations. Initially conceived and directed by Samuel Cottereau Duclos (1598-1685), the project was redirected more than once over thirty years, one of which Homberg effected. Key for both Duclos and Homberg were the ideas of van Helmont. A divide persisted between the academicians, predominantly apothecaries and physicians, who held a narrow view of chymistry’s domain and those, notably Duclos and Homberg, who saw chymistry expansively as the best means for gaining solid knowledge about the natural world. This chapter includes a survey of all the academicians during the 1690s who were active in chymical (broadly defined) matters, thus providing a more detailed portrait of what chymistry meant “on the ground” within the institution at the end of the seventeenth century.

Keywords:   Samuel Cottereau Duclos, plants, analysis, medicine, Joan Baptista van Helmont

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