Article thumbnail
Location of Repository

Variations on a theme: patterns of congruence and divergence among 18th century chemical affinity theories

By G.N.L. Taylor


The doctrine of affinity deserves to be recognised by historians of chemistry as the foundational basis of the discipline of chemistry as it was practiced in Britain during the 18th century. It attained this status through its crucial structural role in the pedagogy of the discipline. The importance of pedagogy and training in the practice of science is currently being reassessed by a number of historians, and my research contributes to this historiographical endeavour. My analysis of the variety of theories sheltered under the umbrella term ‘affinity theory’ has emphasised the role of pedagogy in influencing both the structure and the content of knowledge. I have shown that there were wide ranging discrepancies between many of the components of individual affinity theories. Nevertheless, the scope of divergence was limited. This underlying organisation resulted from the unifying hub of affinity theory, the logical common ground. This was the essence of the doctrine of affinity, encompassing the law of affinity and the conceptualisation of the table that brought together the relations described in the law. The doctrine of affinity thus provided a disciplinary common ground between chemists, providing a mediating level of understanding and communication for all those who subscribed to the doctrine of affinity, in spite of their detailed differences

Publisher: University of London
Year: 2006
OAI identifier:
Provided by: UCL Discovery

Suggested articles


  1. (1800). A Chemical Pocketbook,
  2. A Chymical Vade Mecum,
  3. A Comparative View of the Phlogistic and Antphlogistic Theories with Inductions 2nd ed. (1791),"
  4. A Course of
  5. (1746). A Course of Practical Chemistry in which are contained all the Operations described in Wilson's Complete course of Chemistry,
  6. A Dictionary of Chemistry,
  7. (1970). A Dissertation on Elective Attractions, trans. Thomas Beddoes, 2nd English
  8. (1805). A General Dictionary of Chemistry, containing the Leading Principles of the Science in regard to Facts, Experiments and Nomenclature, for the use of Students,
  9. (1970). A History of Chemistry,
  10. A Letter from the Rev. William Henry D.D., to the Right Honorable The Lord Cadogan, F.R.S., concerning the Copper Springs in the County of Wicklow in Ireland",
  11. A Letter to Sir Peter Thompson; Knt: F.R.S. Containing Experiments on the Copper Springs in Wicklow in Ireland, and Observations Thereon, by John Bond,
  12. A Narrative of the Life and Death of John Elliot M.D.
  13. A New Method of Assaying Copper Ores. By George Fordyce,
  14. A New Method of Chemistry.
  15. A New Method of Chemistry. Ed. Peter Shaw and Ephraim 317 Chambers.
  16. A Paper of the Honourable Robert Boyl's, Deposited with the Secretaries of the Royal Society,
  17. (1994). A Scientific Correspondence During the Chemical Revolution, Ed. Emmanuel Grison,
  18. (1989). A Short History of Chemistry,
  19. (1747). A Short Introduction to Moral Philosophy,
  20. (1925). A System of Logic Ratiocinative and Inductive,
  21. A Treatise of the Fossil, Vegetable and Animal Substances that are Made Use of
  22. A Treatise of the Materia Medica, 2 vols.
  23. (1971). Affinity and Matter: Elements of Chemical Philosophy 1800-1865,
  24. (2002). Alchemy Tried in the Fire: Starkey, Boyle, and the fate of Helmontian Chymistry,
  25. An Account of an Experiment on Heat. By
  26. An Account of Some Experiments on the Loss of Weight in Bodies on Being Melted or Heated. In a Letter from George Fordyce,
  27. (1954). An Early Version of Boyle's Sceptical Chymist",
  28. (1931). An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding," in Theory of Knowledge,
  29. An Enquiry into the General Effects
  30. (1968). An Essay on Phlogiston and the Constitution of Acids, (1789; reprint, London: Frank Cass & Co Limited,
  31. An Essay on The Usefulness of Chemistry and its Application to the Various Occasions of Life,
  32. An Inquiry into the Original of our
  33. An Introduction to Chemistry being the Substance of A Course
  34. (1989). An Introduction to Historiography of Science, (Cambridge:
  35. (1971). Analysis by Fire and Solvent Extractions: The Metamorphosis of a Tradition",
  36. (1736). and John Elliot (1747-87)", Annals of Science
  37. (1985). and the Chemical Revolution",
  38. (1989). Artificial Clouds, Real Particles," in The Uses of Experiment: Studies in the Natural Sciences.
  39. (1968). Atomic Speculation in the Late Eighteenth Century,"
  40. (2006). Atoms and Alchemy: Chymistry & the Experimental Origins of the Scientific Revolution,
  41. Berzelian Formulas as Paper Tools in Early Nineteenth Century Chemistry",
  42. (1984). Between the Library and the Laboratory (Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins
  43. Biographia Medica; or, Historical and Critical Memoirs of the Lives and Writings of the most Eminent Medical Characters,
  44. (1950). Black's Influence on Chemistry,"
  45. (2002). Boltheads and Crucibles' A Brief History of the 1702 Chair of Chemistry at Cambridge,
  46. By Erasmus Darwin M.D. Communicated by William Watson, F.R.S.",
  47. (1983). Cambridge:
  48. (1971). Chemical Analysis and The Phlogiston Theory 1738-1772: Prelude to Revolution (PhD Thesis,
  49. (1980). Chemistry and the Chemical Revolution," in The Ferment of Knowledge:
  50. (1990). Chemistry as Peer of Physics: A Response to Donovan and Melhado on Lavoisier",
  51. (1962). Chemistry at the University of Edinburgh:
  52. (2002). Chemistry in Colour: Ceramics and Glass in 18th-Century Britain",
  53. Commercicum Philosophico-Technicum or The Philosophical Commerce of Arts: designed as an attempt to improve Arts,
  54. Conclusion of the Experiments and Observations concerning the Attractive Powers of the Mineral Acids.",
  55. (2005). Contexts and Limits of Lavoisier's Analytical Plant Chemistry: Plant Materials and their Classification",
  56. Continuation of the Experiments and Observations on the Specific Gravities and Attractive Powers of Various Saline Substances.",
  57. Correspondence, 1780s, MS Gen 873/III,
  58. Correspondence, 1783-1990, MS Gen 874/IV,
  59. (2001). Creations of Fire: Chemistry's Lively History from Alchemy to the Atomic Age,
  60. Dictionary of Chemistry, trans. James Keir (1766; reprint, London:
  61. Directions for EXTEMPORANEOUS PRESCRIPTION; with a select number of elegant FORMS.
  62. (2002). Discussing Chemistry and Steam: The Minutes of a Coffee House Philosophical Society 1780-1787,
  63. Disquisito de Attractionibus Electivis",
  64. Dr Cullen's Table of Elective Attractions,
  65. Draft Letter to George Fordyce, 1759a, MS 90, Cullen Papers,
  66. (2005). Drawing Theories Apart: The Dispersion of Feynman Diagrams in Postwar Physics,
  67. (1999). Drugs on Trial: Experimental Pharmacology and Therapeutic Innovation in the Eighteenth Century,
  68. (1991). Du Flou Au Clair: Histoire de L'Affinité Chimique,
  69. (1995). E F Geoffroy's Table of Different Rapports Observed Between Different Chemical Substances - A Reinterpretation",
  70. (1976). Edinburgh Medicine in the Eighteenth Century: the view from the students",
  71. (2000). Eds. Instruments and Experimentation
  72. (1989). Eighteenth Century Chemistry as an Investigative Enterprise, Berkeley Papers in
  73. Election Certificate.
  74. Elemens de Chymie - Theorique, (Paris: Chés JeanThomas Herissant,
  75. Elements of Agriculture,
  76. (1965). Elements of Chemistry, trans. Robert Kerr (1790; reprint,
  77. Elements of Mineralogy,
  78. Elements of Natural History and of Chemistry (being the Second Edition of The Elementary Lectures on those Sciences),
  79. (1782). Elements of the Branches of Natural Philosophy Connected with
  80. Elements of the Theory and Practice of Chemistry,
  81. Elements of the Theory and Practice of Chemistry, trans.Andrew Reid (London: A Millar
  82. (1720). Enclairissements Sur la Table inferée dans les Mémoires de 1718 concernant les Rapports observés entre differentes Substances",
  83. Encyclopédie Méthodique,
  84. (1805). Essays, Chiefly on Chemical Subjects by the Late William Irvine, and by his son,
  85. Ether and the Science of Chemistry,"
  86. Expériences sur les Métaux, faites avec le Verre ardent du Palais Royal",
  87. Experimental Examination of a White Metallic Substance Said to be found in the Gold Mines of the Spanish West-Indies, and there Known by the Appellations of Platina, Platina de Pinto, Juan Blanca",
  88. Experimental Examination of Platina",
  89. Experimental Researches Concerning the Philosophy of Permanent Colours; and the Best Means of Producing Them, by Dying, Callico Printing,
  90. Experiments and Observations on American Potashes, with an Easy Method of Determining their Respective Qualities.,
  91. Experiments and Observations on Animal Heat, and the Inflammation of Combustible Bodies; being an attempt to Resolve these Phenomena into a General law of Nature., Second Edition, With Very Large Additions (London:
  92. Experiments and Observations on the Specific Gravities and Attractive Powers of Various Saline Substances.",
  93. Experiments and Observations Relating to Various Branches of Natural Philosophy; with a Continuation of the Observations on Air, (Birmingham: Pearson and Rollason,
  94. Experiments and Observations Upon Animal Heat, and the Inflammation of Combustible Bodies, being an attempt to Resolve these Phenomena into a General Law of Nature,
  95. Experiments on Air; Read at the Royal Society,
  96. Experiments on Hepatic Air. By Richard Kirwan,
  97. Experiments on the Formation of Volatile Alkali, and on the Affinities of the Phlogisticated and light Inflammable Airs.",
  98. Experiments Relating to Phlogiston and the Seeming Conversion of Water into Air",
  99. (1910). Experiments upon Magnesia Alba, Quick-Lime, and other Alcaline Substances, Alembic Club Reprints,
  100. Fair copy Notes taken by David Carmichael from Chemistry Lectures,
  101. Five Letters to William Cullen,
  102. Fragment of a Lecture on Saltpetre, Aquafortis and Elective Attractions, Separating and Combining, 1749, MS 1060, Cullen Papers,
  103. Fragmentary Notes taken by
  104. (1995). From Alchemy to Chemistry,
  105. (1952). FRS (1708-1781)",
  106. (2001). George Fordyce MD FRS (1736-1802): Physician-Chemist and Eccentric",
  107. (2003). George Pearson MD, FRS (1751-1828): 'The Greatest Chemist in England'?",
  108. (1964). Hans Sloane and the Académie Royale des Sciences,"
  109. (1962). Historical Studies in the Language of Chemistry,
  110. (1938). Historical Studies on the Phlogiston Theory – III, Light and Heat in Combustion",
  111. (1994). Historiography of Chemistry: Hermann Boerhaave and William Cullen",
  112. (1992). History of Chemistry,
  113. (1983). How the Laws of Physics Lie,
  114. Hyacinthe de, Essai sur la Nouvelle Théorie du Feu Élémentaire, et de la Chaleur des Corps,
  115. (1997). Image and Logic: A Material Culture of Microphysics,322
  116. Institutes of Experimental Chemistry,
  117. Introduction to Natural Philosophy,
  118. (1954). Isaac Milner and the Jacksonian Chair of Natural Philosophy",
  119. (1960). Itinerant Lecturers in Natural Philosophy",
  120. (1967). James Keir of the Lunar Society",
  121. (1993). John Elliot and the Inhabited Sun",
  122. (2005). Johnson's Dictionary: An Anthology,
  123. (2005). Joseph Priestley: Public Intellectual",
  124. (2001). Lavoisier and his Last Printed Work: the Mémoires de Physique et de Chimie (1805)",
  125. (1996). Laws and Order in Eighteenth-Century Chemistry,
  126. le Bovier de, "Sur les Rapports de Differentes Substances de Chimie",
  127. le Bovier de, "Sur les Rapports Des Differents Substances en Chimie",
  128. (2003). Learners' Mental Models of Metallic Bonding: A Cross-Age Study",
  129. (2000). Learning about Atoms, Molecules and Chemical Bonds: A Case
  130. Lectures on Chemistry, 1750, MS 4999, Wellcome Library for the History and Understanding of Medicine,
  131. (1803). Lectures on the Elements of Chemistry, Delivered in the University of Edinburgh by the late Joseph Black M.D..
  132. Lunardi's Grand Aerostatic Voyage through the Air, Containing a Complete and Circumstantial Account of the Grand Aerial Flight made by that Enterprising Foreigner,
  133. (2005). Making Tools Travel: Pedagogy and the Transfer of Skills in Postwar Theoretical Physics,"
  134. Maniére de Recomposer le Souffre Commun par la Réünion de ses Principes, et d'en composer de Nouveau par le Mélange de Semblables Substances, avec quelques conjectures sur la composition des Métaux",
  135. Memoirs of the Author of 'The Rights of Woman',
  136. (1986). Mendeleev's Periodic System of Chemical Elements",
  137. Metallurgic Chemistry, trans.
  138. (1989). Nature's Capacities and Their Measurement,
  139. (1971). Newtonian Forces and Lockean Powers: Concepts of Matter
  140. (1966). Notes from Dr Black's Lectures on Chemistry 1767/8 Thos Cochrane. Ed. Douglas McKie (Imperial Chemical Industries Limited, Pharmaceuticals Division,
  141. Notes taken by Charles Blagden from Chemistry Lectures, 1766, MS 1922, Blagden Papers, Wellcome Library for the History and Understanding of Medicine,
  142. Notes taken by Edward Low from Chemistry Lectures, 1760, MS/MSL/7a-7b, Medical Society of London Collection, Wellcome Library for the History and Understanding of Medicine,
  143. Notes taken by Henry Rumsey from Chemistry Lectures, 1786a, MS 146-148, Henry Rumsey Papers, Royal College of Physicians,
  144. Notes taken by James Lind from Chemistry
  145. Notes taken by John Samwell from Chemistry Lectures,
  146. Notes taken by Richard Whitfield from Chemistry
  147. Notes taken by Will Falconer from Chemistry Lectures, 1765, MS1919-1921, Wellcome Library for the History and Understanding of Medicine,
  148. Notes taken from Chemistry
  149. Notes taken from Chemistry Lectures,
  150. Notes taken from Chemistry Lectures, n.d. [1760s], MS/MSL/79a-c, Medical Society of London, Wellcome Library for the History and Understanding of Medicine,
  151. (1668). Observations on the Affinities of Substances in Spirit of Wine.
  152. Of the Cold produced by Evaporating Fluids, and of some other Means of producing Cold",
  153. Of the Mechanical Causes of Chemical Precipitation (1675),"
  154. Of the Strength of Acids, and the Proportion of Ingredients in Neutral Salts",
  155. On Compound Elective Attractions, 1759, MS 89, Cullen Papers,
  156. (2006). On the Self-Image of Chemists, 1950-2000", Hyle - 327
  157. (1979). Opticks or A Treatise of the Reflections,
  158. (1988). Particles and 18th-Century Concepts of ChemicalCombination",
  159. Pearson], A Translation of the Table of Chemical Nomenclature Proposed by De Guyton, Formerly De Morveau,
  160. (1962). Personal Knowledge: Towards a Post-Critical Philosophy,
  161. (1983). Peter Shaw: Chemistry and Communication in Augustan 323 England",
  162. Philosophical Empiricism: Containing Remarks on a Charge of Plagiarism Respecting Dr. H-s, Interspersed with Various Observations relating to Different Kinds of Air,
  163. Philosophical Observations on the Senses of Vision and Hearing' to which are added, a Treatise on Harmonic Sounds,
  164. (1950). Phlogiston, Caloric and Heat,"
  165. (1976). Pneumatic Chemistry and Newtonian Natural Philosophy in the Eighteenth Century: William Cullen and Joseph Black",
  166. Private Lecture notes entitled "The Operations of Chemistry”,
  167. Remarks on Mr. Cavendish's Experiments on Air.
  168. (2004). reprint, Bristol: Thoemmes Continuum,
  169. (1988). Research Traditions, Lavoisier and the Chemical Revolution",
  170. (1952). Robert Boyle and Structural Chemistry in the Seventeenth Century",
  171. Rough Notes taken by David Carmichael from Chemistry Lectures, 1757, MS 12, Cullen Papers, Royal College of Physicians Edinburgh Library,
  172. (2002). Samuel Johnson's Dictionary: Selections from the 1755
  173. (1985). Science and the Enlightenment,
  174. (1992). Science as Public Culture: Chemistry and Enlightenment
  175. Sketch of the Life of James Keir Esq. FRS, with a Selection of his Correspondence, (London: Private Printing,
  176. Society of London, Journal Books, 1718-1721, Royal Society of London Library. Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, Guard Book 14, n.d.a,
  177. (1975). Sources for the History of Science 1660-1914,
  178. (2004). Speculative Truth: Henry Cavendish, Natural Philosophy, and the Rise of Modern Theoretical Science,
  179. (1981). Styles of Language and Orders of Chemical Thought",
  180. Sur l'affinité du Principe Oxygine avec les Differentes Substances auxquelles il est Susceptible de s'unir",
  181. Tables des Differents Rapports observes en Chimie entre differentes substances",
  182. (2003). That Elusive Dream: A Genealogy of the Chemical Revolution, Transformations:
  183. (2006). The 1702 Chair of Chemistry at Cambridge : Transformation and Change.
  184. (1998). The Aspiring Adept: Robert Boyle and his Alchemical Quest,
  185. (1968). The Background to Dalton's Atomic Theory," in John Dalton and the Progress of Science,
  186. (1971). The Caloric Theory of Gases from Lavoisier to Regnault,
  187. (1990). The Changing Role of Numbers in 18th-Century Chemistry,"
  188. (1952). The Chemical Revolution,
  189. (1985). The Chemical Work of James Watt,
  190. (1759). The Chemical Works of Caspar Neumann MD Abridged and Methodized Containing the later Discoveries and Improvements made in Chemistry and the Arts depending thereon by William Lewis MD,
  191. (1996). The Chemical Workshop Tradition and the Experimental Practice: Discontinuities within Continuities",
  192. (1975). The Chemists and the Word: The Didactic Origins of Chemistry,
  193. (1996). The communal context for Etienne-Francois Geoffroy's ''Table des rapports''",
  194. (1948). The Concepts of Substance and Chemical Element",
  195. The Creative Power of Paper Tools in Early NineteenthCentury Chemistry,"
  196. (1969). The Development of Chemistry in Britain through Medicine (PhD Thesis,
  197. (1963). The Development of Chemistry in the Eighteenth Century,"
  198. The Diary of Sylas Neville 1767-1788, Ed. Basil Cozens-Hardy.
  199. (1935). The Discovery of Specific and Latent Heats,
  200. (2006). The Dual Nature of Technical Artefacts",
  201. (2004). The Element of the Table: Visual Discourse and the Preperiodic Representation of Chemical Classification",
  202. The first part of a dictionary of chemistry, &c,
  203. (1970). The Functions of Affinity Tables and Lavoisier's List of Elements",
  204. (1918). The History of St Bartholomew's Hospital,
  205. (1975). The Incompleat Chymist: Being an essay on the Eighteenth Century Chemist
  206. (1965). The Nature of a Paradigm," in Criticism and the Growth of Knowledge:
  207. (1967). The Nature of Heat and Its Relationship to Chemistry in the Eighteenth Century (PhD Thesis,
  208. The New Dispensatory …,
  209. The New Dispensatory (with amendments by
  210. (1994). The Origin of the Concept of Chemical Compound",
  211. The Plan of a Course of Chemical Lectures and Experiments to be Given
  212. (1997). The Platypus and the Mermaid and other Figments of the Classifying Imagination,
  213. (2005). The Power of Didactic Writings: French Chemistry Textbooks of the Nineteenth Century,"
  214. (1995). The Principia, trans. Andrew Motte Great Minds Series (1726; reprint,
  215. (1995). The Same and Not the Same, George B. Pegram Lecture Series (New York:
  216. The Sceptical Chymist or Chymico-Physical Doubts & Paradoxes, touching the Spagyrist's Principles Commonly called the Hypostatical; as they are wont to be Propos'd and Defended by the Generality of Alchymists,
  217. (1952). The Scientific Movement and the Development of Chemistry in England, as seen in the papers published in the Philosophical Transactions from 1664/5 until 1750",
  218. (1982). The Spreading of the Word: New Directions in the Historiography of Chemistry 1600-1800",
  219. (1996). The Structure of Scientific Revolutions,
  220. (1967). The Tacit Dimension,
  221. (1959). The Use of Diagrams as Chemical 'Equations' in the Lecture Notes of William Cullen and Joseph Black",
  222. (1999). The Works of
  223. The Works of the Honourable Robert Boyle,
  224. Three Papers, containing Experiments on Factitious Airs",
  225. To the Right Honourable George Lord Lansdown, 2nd ed. (London: Bernard Lintott,
  226. (2001). Tools and Modes of Representation
  227. (2001). Transforming Matter: A History of Chemistry from Alchemy to the Buckyball, John Hopkins Introductory Studies in the History of Science (Baltimore and London:
  228. (2000). Uses and Abuses of Anachronism in the History of the Sciences", History of Science viii,
  229. (1988). Utility and Audience in Eighteenth Century Chemistry: Case Studies of William Cullen and Joseph Priestley",
  230. (1958). William Cleghorn's 'De Igne' (1779)",
  231. (1982). William Cullen and the Research Tradition of EighteenthCentury Scottish Chemistry,"
  232. (1950). William Cullen M.D., and His Times,"
  233. (1967). William Keir's De Attractione Chemica (1778) and The Concepts of Chemical Saturation, Attraction and Repulsion",

To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.