Emil Fischer and the "art of chemical experimentation"

TitleEmil Fischer and the "art of chemical experimentation"
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsJackson, CM
JournalHist Sci
Date PublishedMar
ISBN Number0073-2753 (Print)<br/>0073-2753 (Linking)
Keywordslaboratory reasoning, material culture, melting point, model compound, Organic synthesis, reagent, stereochemistry, structural theory, theory and practice, training

What did nineteenth-century chemists know? This essay uses Emil Fischer's classic study of the sugars in 1880s and 90s Germany to argue that chemists' knowledge was not primarily vested in the theories of valence, structure, and stereochemistry that have been the subject of so much historical and philosophical analysis of chemistry in this period. Nor can chemistry be reduced to a merely manipulative exercise requiring little or no intellectual input. Examining what chemists themselves termed the "art of chemical experimentation" reveals chemical practice as inseparable from its cognitive component, and it explains how chemists integrated theory with experiment through reason.