Foundations of Chemistry

, Volume 14, Issue 1, pp 25–36 | Cite as

Viewing chemistry through its ways of classifying

  • Wolfgang LefèvreEmail author


The focus of this contribution lies on eighteenth-century chemistry up to Lavoisier’s anti-phlogistic chemical system. Some main features of chemistry in this period will be examined by discussing classificatory practices and the understanding of the substances these practices imply. In particular, the question will be discussed of whether these practices can be regarded as natural historical practices and, hence, whether chemistry itself was a special natural history (part I). Furthermore, discussion of the famous Methode de nomenclature chimique (1787) raises the question of what modes of classification tell us about chemists’ understanding of the substances they deal with (part II). Finally, in investigating what taxonomic orders reveal about deep structures of chemists’ understanding of the world of substances, the contribution will examine the question of whether Lavoisier’s anti-phlogistic chemical system was a revolution on the level of a deep structure or a revision within the untouched frame of such a structure (part III).


Chemical classification Lavoisier’s Revolution Natural history 


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.MPI for the History of ScienceBerlinGermany

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