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
Ferraris, Giovanni
Pier Remigio Salvi
Santos, Gildo Magalhães
Spek, Trienke M. van der
Silvi, Bernard
Schütt, Hans-Werner
Annals of Science: The History of Science and Technology
Ambix: Journal of the Society for the History of Alchemy and Chemistry
Substantia: An International Journal of the History of Chemistry
Ziran Kexueshi Yanjiu (Studies in the History of Natural Sciences)
Nuncius: Annali di Storia della Scienza
Notes and Records: The Royal Society Journal of the History of Science
Springer Science + Business Media
Atomic structure
Inorganic chemistry
Molecular structure
Explanation; hypotheses; theories
Dalton, John
Mitscherlich, Eilhard
Noddack, Walter Karl Friedrich
Noddack, Ida
Kopp, Hermann Franz Moritz
Smithson, James
Time Periods
19th century
20th century, early
20th century
18th century
21st century
20th century, late
United Kingdom
Heidelberg Universität
University of Chicago

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