Chymical Philosophy and Boyle’s Incongruous Philosophical Chymistry

  • Victor D. Boantza
Part of the International Archives of the History of Ideas Archives internationales d'histoire des idées book series (ARCH, volume 208)


During the 1660s and 1670s Boyle proposed a reformation of traditional and contemporary chymical philosophy and practice by reinterpreting them along mechanical principles. By submitting chymical phenomena to the laws of matter and motion, coupled with a systematic experimentalism, Boyle looked to introduce intelligibility and simplicity into an allegedly ambiguous chymical discourse. During the late 1660s, Samuel Cottereau Duclos (1598–1685), leading chymist of the early French Royal Academy of Sciences, provided a critical assessment of Boyle’s “physico-chymical” creation. Attentive in part to Boyle’s critique and dismissive of certain aspects of traditional chemical philosophies, Duclos favored a clarification and re-contextualization of chymistry that would not dissociate it from its historical roots, assuming a different stand within the ‘ancients’ versus ‘moderns’ debate. By perceiving Boyle qua reformer (as a member of the very scientific community Boyle sought to reform), Duclos exposed Boyle’s lack of experimental proficiency and acquaintance with the chymical realm. Reading Boyle’s new “physico-chymical” science from a distinctly chymical perspective, Duclos revealed its paradoxical and incongruous nature, rendering it a discordant solution: a baroque middle ground which ultimately compromised chymistry’s status as the ultimate science of matter and material change.


Matter Theory Scientific Revolution Royal Academy Natural Mixts Marine Salt 
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= Académie Royale des Sciences, Procès-Verbal de séance, Paris, France.


= Boyle Robert. The Sceptical Chemist. (in Works, vol. II)


= Boyle Robert. Certain Physiological Essays. (in Works, vol. II)


= Boyle Robert. The Origin of Forms and Qualities. (in Works, vol. V)


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Unit for History and Philosophy of ScienceThe University of SydneySydneyAustralia

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