Foundations of Chemistry

, Volume 14, Issue 1, pp 37-53

First online:

Klein on the origin of the concept of chemical compound

  • Alan ChalmersAffiliated withUnit for History and Philosophy of Science, University of Sydney Email author 

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Ursula Klein has argued that Geoffroy’s table of chemical affinities, published in 1718, marked the emergence of the concepts of chemical compound and chemical combination central to chemistry. In this paper her position is summarised and then modified to render it immune to criticism that has been levelled against it. The essentials of Geoffroy’s chemistry are clarified and adapted to Klein’s picture by way of a detailed comparison of it with Boyle’s corpuscular chemistry that proceeded Geoffroy’s by over half a century. The idea that Geoffroy’s notion of chemical combination marked a significant turning point in the emergence of modern chemistry is defended against the charge that it is Whiggish.


History of chemistry Chemical compound Chemical combination Affinity tables Ettiene Geoffroy Robert Boyle