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Alchemy Tried in the FireStarkey, Boyle, and the Fate of Helmontian Chymistry$
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William R. Newman and Lawrence M. Principe

Print publication date: 2002

Print ISBN-13: 9780226577111

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: March 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226577050.001.0001

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The Legacy of Van Helmont's and Starkey's Chymistry

The Legacy of Van Helmont's and Starkey's Chymistry

Boyle, Homberg, and the Chemical Revolution

Chapter:
(p.273) Six The Legacy of Van Helmont's and Starkey's Chymistry
Source:
Alchemy Tried in the Fire
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226577050.003.0007

Boyle's mechanical interpretations of exantlated acids and the dissolution of materials by the alkahest—such as Van Helmont's explanations of these phenomena—focused on the changes induced in a single substance that retains its material identity while being divided into smaller corpuscles or otherwise undergoing a change in texture. Homberg examined the solubilities of the various metals toward different acids. Homberg explained the twofold product of the precipitation of mercury. This chapter outlines a clear legacy of Van Helmont's and Starkey's chymical theory and practice. Helmontianism, at least partly transmitted through and interpreted by Starkey, not only played an important role in Boyle's first set of natural philosophical publications but also persisted in somewhat different formats in his mature chymistry. A mechanical chymistry wherein anything could produce anything else via mechanical changes of corpuscular texture militated against the very possibility of meaningful quantitative analysis, because a purely mechanistic chymistry is incompatible with the notion of “constant composition” that undergirds the concept of analysis.

Keywords:   Homberg, Van Helmont's, Starkey's chymical theory, Helmontianism, mechanistic chymistry

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