Foundations of Chemistry

, Volume 6, Issue 2, pp 161-175

First online:

Elements, Principles and the Narrative of Affinity

  • M.D EddyAffiliated withDibner Institute

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


In the 18th century, the concept of ‘affinity’, ‘principle’ and ‘element’ dominated chemical discourse, both inside and outside the laboratory. Although much work has been done on these terms and the methodological commitments which guided their usage, most studies over the past two centuries have concentrated on their application as relevant to Lavoisier's oxygen theory and the new nomenclature. Kim's affinity challenges this historiographical trajectory by looking at several French chemists in the light of their private thoughts, public disputations and communal networks. In doing so, she tells a complex story which points to the methodological and practical importance of industrial and medical chemistry. The following review highlights the advantages and snares of such an approach and makes a few historiographical points along the way.