SHAC Workshop: History of Alchemy and Chemistry

Department of History and Philosophy of Science
University of Cambridge

This one day workshop, aimed particularly at postgraduates and early career
researchers, introduces and explores historiographical and methodological
issues unique to the history of alchemy and chemistry. We will investigate
the practical challenges of researching chemistry over different periods,
from pre-modern matter theories and artisanal practices, to the shaping of
chemistry as a formal discipline in the eighteenth and nineteenth
centuries, and the increasing permeability of chemistry's boundaries with
other disciplines, including physics and the biosciences, in modern times.
Participation is welcomed both from scholars already working on related
topics, and those interested in exploring points of intersection between
the history of chemistry and their own research.

Discussion will be framed by presentations from junior and established
scholars, including:

  • Hasok Chang (University College London), 'Why has chemistry become
    unfashionable for historians of science?'
  • Jennifer Rampling (University of Cambridge), 'Interpreting alchemy: text,
    image, and practice.'
  • Karin Ekholm (Indiana University, Bloomington), 'Some problems in the
    history of seventeenth-century chemistry.'
  • John Perkins (Oxford Brookes University), 'Searching for chemists in
    eighteenth-century France.'
  • Pieter Thyssen (Catholic University of Leuven), 'The Replication Method in
    the history of chemistry: resolving a nineteenth-century priority dispute.'
  • Viviane Quirke (Oxford Brookes University), 'Chemistry, the pharmaceutical
    industry, and medicine in the twentieth century: drugs as "boundary

Lunch is provided. There is no charge for attendance, but registration is
required. Assistance is available towards the cost of travel and
accommodation. Please email Jennifer Rampling for further
details, and to register.

Sponsored by the Society for the History of Alchemy and Chemistry (SHAC).
For more information on SHAC, including details of the Society's award
scheme for junior scholars, see

The workshop immediately follows the BSHS Postgraduate Conference in
Cambridge (5-7 January).

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