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A New Chymical Light

A New Chymical Light

(p.172) 4 A New Chymical Light
The Transmutations of Chymistry
Lawrence M. Principe
University of Chicago Press

Chapter 4 recounts how Homberg’s social position changed dramatically at the start of the eighteenth century, and how that transformed his ability to pursue chymistry when Philippe II, Duc d’Orléans, became both his patron and his collaborator. With Homberg’s participation, Philippe transformed part of his residence at Palais Royal into a lavish chymical laboratory where Philippe and Homberg pursued an array of chymical endeavors, and where other academicians worked under Homberg’s guidance. Philippe equipped the laboratory with the most extraordinary scientific instrument of the day—a gigantic burning lens made by Ehrenfried Walther von Tschirnhaus capable of focusing concentrated sunlight onto chemical substances. Homberg’s first experiments with this device caused him to abandon his new textbook just a few months after he began writing it, and immerse himself in a fervent program of focused research, at the end of which he completely revised his chymical theory with the stunning claim that light incorporated with matter lay at the heart of all chymical change and activity. Significantly, the most profound changes to Homberg’s chymical system can be clearly and convincingly tied to the results of specific experiments.

Keywords:   Philippe II d'Orleans, light, burning lens, laboratories, theory production, patronage, Ehrenfried Walther von Tschirnhaus, experiment

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