Article ID: CBB001320273

Emil Wohlwill's “Entdeckung des Isomorphismus”: A Nineteenth-Century “Material Biography” of Crystallography (2013)


Eilhard Mitscherlich's experimental work on isomorphism in the crystallisation of many inorganic compounds was regarded by Emil Wohlwill (1835 1912) as a milestone in the history of the atomic molecular theory. Despite his positivist account, Wohlwill's 1866 survey was primarily concerned with the material conditions that shaped Mitscherlich's theoretical assumptions on iso- and polymorphic crystallisation, narrowing the range of possible alternative models. Following an account of Wohlwill's exposition, and a discussion of his historiographic views, the paper shows how, from a historico-epistemological perspective, technical improvements in crystallography (an emerging branch of early-nineteenth-century mineralogy) were deeply entangled with a new interest in crystal formation as a cutting-edge research field of inorganic chemistry. This had fundamental implications for the development of atomic and molecular theory.

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Authors & Contributors
Melhado, Evan M.
Schütt, Hans-Werner
Kragh, Helge S.
García Belmar, Antonio
Bertomeu Sánchez, José Ramón
Garrigós i Oltra, Lluís
Annals of Science: The History of Science and Technology
Ambix: Journal of the Society for the History of Alchemy and Chemistry
Historical Studies in the Physical Sciences
Abhandlungen und Berichte des Deutschen Museums
Centaurus: International Magazine of the History of Mathematics, Science, and Technology
Nuncius: Annali di Storia della Scienza
Springer Science + Business Media
Atomic structure
Inorganic chemistry
Molecular structure
Philosophy of science
Mitscherlich, Eilhard
Dalton, John
Kelvin, William Thomson, Baron
Orfila, Mathieu Joseph Bonaventure
Casaseca y Silván, José Luis
Hoff, Jacobus Henricus van't
Time Periods
19th century
20th century, early
20th century
20th century, late
21st century
17th century
University of Chicago
Heidelberg Universität

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