This chapter introduces two of the main characters of this book's story, George Starkey and Robert Boyle. These two men have been set up on occasion as exemplars of two hemispheres in the history of chemistry; the former as the last of the alchemists and the latter as the first of the chemists. The chapter reviews the background to Starkey's chymical practice and analyzes the contents of Starkey's laboratory notebooks. Furthermore, it sheds light on the continued influence of Helmontian notions and practices after the 1650s, first in Boyle's mature chymistry, and then down to that late eighteenth-century admirer of Van Helmont and reformer of chemistry, Antoine Laurent Lavoisier.
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