Du Clos and the Mechanization of Chemical Philosophy
That year, Mr. Du Clos continued the examination that he had begun of Mr. Boyle’s Essays of Chemistry. This English scholar had undertaken to explain all the chemical phenomena by way of corpuscular philosophy, that is, through the motion and the configurations of small bodies alone. Mr. Du Clos, as great a chemist as Mr. Boyle, but being perhaps more chemistry minded, did not think this science could or even needed to be reduced to such clear principles as shapes and motions, and he readily accepted a certain specious obscurity, which is quite well established …. [C]hemistry, by visible operations, resolves bodies into certain coarse and tangible principles, salts, sulphur, etc. But physics, through delicate speculations, acts on these principles, as chemistry does on bodies, and resolves them into other even simpler principles, to small moving bodies with an endless number of shapes: here is the main difference between physics and chemistry, and almost the same as that which lay between Mr. Boyle and Mr. Du Clos. The spirit of chemistry is more confused, more veiled; resembles more the mixed bodies, where the principles are mixed up with one another, while the spirit of physics is more distinct, clearer; finally it identifies the first origins, and the other does not go through to completion.