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Emma Spary, What use was chymistry? Chymists, botanists, and the problem of plant identification in Paris, 1660-1715
Martedì 26 Marzo 2024, 16:00
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Emma Spary (University of Cambridge)

What use was chymistry? Chymists, botanists, and the problem of plant identification in Paris, 1660-1715

There is a sense of the frustration the chymists of the Paris Academy of Sciences must have felt concerning their attempt to use chymical analysis to investigate the nature of plants in the confession of Denis Dodart, the project leader, that exhaustive programmes of plant analysis had abutted in nothing more than convincing 'men of their powerlessness… to know the virtues of plants’. This statement, made in 1679, suggests a stalemate in attempts to frame chymistry as a route to understanding the nature of plants. And yet efforts to apply chymical analysis to plants continued at the academy, less as a generic institutional goal than as the personal goal of particular academic chymists: Guillaume Homberg, Nicolas Lémery or Simon Boulduc. This paper will argue that one way in which chymists managed to defend a reputation as inquirers into the nature of living beings was by hitching their chariot to medical botany. Against portrayals of Lémery as a chymist of a new stripe, who reformed and made respectable this art, severing it from its medical roots, I will suggest that involvement with botanists was vital in conferring credibility upon chymical experimentation at this time, by presenting chymists' goals as aligned with iatrobotanists' agenda of documenting the world's provision of healing plants.

Luogo Offiss Università di Bologna
Aula Mondolfo, Via Zamboni 38
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