Thesis ID: CBB168978415

Phlogisticated Relations: Lichtenberg and Ritter's Readings of Chemistry (2019)


Malagon, Carolina Isabel (Author)
Gordin, Michael D. (Advisor)
Vogl, Joseph (Advisor)

Princeton University
Gordin, Michael D.
Vogl, Joseph
Publication date: 2019
Language: English

Publication Date: 2019
Physical Details: 440

This dissertation addresses the persistence of an approach to chemistry that can be traced through German literary texts in the aftermath of the chemical revolution. Over the course of the 1780s and 1790s, established procedures of knowledge production came under fire from proponents of a new chemical system of practice. The stakes of these debates were high, limited not just to chemis-try: an entire way of reading the relations between things was affected. By focusing on two propo-nents of this way of reading who nonetheless responded very differently to the debates, Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (1742-1799) and Johann Wilhelm Ritter (1776-1810), this dissertation con-tributes new materials to the history of the period, assesses the role of pedagogy in reproducing practices, and draws essential links between chemical and literary representations. Chapter 1 reconstructs Lichtenberg's approaches through the frame of audience. Both pub-licist and professor of physics, Lichtenberg conceived of his various audiences as participants in the pedagogical process, deploying coherent strategies to guide and to recruit them. Following the chains of his associations from his private notebooks to his public lectures and essays, the chapter examines how linguistic decisions contributed to this process and to the establishment of his own authority. Chapter 2 addresses the material dimension of Lichtenberg's practices through his work with various kinds of air. By operationalizing readings of properties, Lichtenberg staged perfor-mances that situated the body in a relationship with active powers. One of the first German physi-cists to teach chemical topics, Lichtenberg's treatment of airs illuminates the moral, poetic, and ep-istemic heart to his program. Chapter 3 uses Lichtenberg's critiques of decisiveness to reexamine debates over the new chemistry. Exemplified in those debates, but by no means limited to them, decisive rhetoric presented a threat to knowledge production as Lichtenberg understood it on mul-tiple fronts. Chapter 4, focused on Ritter, examines the emergence of his own decisive approach against the background of his training as an apothecary and studies in Jena. Diverging on how to represent analogies and in their self-presentations as authors, Ritter and Lichtenberg together demonstrate the complex interrelationships between chemical and poetic practices.

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Authors & Contributors
Holland, Jocelyn
Anstey, Peter
Bensaude-Vincent, Bernadette
Chaouli, Michel
Djerassi, Carl
Guerra, Corinna
Ambix: Journal of the Society for the History of Alchemy and Chemistry
Annals of Science: The History of Science and Technology
Berichte zur Wissenschaftsgeschichte
Foundations of Chemistry
Jahrbuch für Europäische Wissenschaftskultur
Metascience: An International Review Journal for the History, Philosophy and Social Studies of Science
Stanford University
Columbia University
New York University
Johns Hopkins University Press
Science and literature
Discipline formation
Poetry and poetics
Teaching; pedagogy
Ritter, Johann Wilhelm
Lichtenberg, Georg Christoph
Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von
Lavoisier, Antoine Laurent
Berthollet, Claude Louis
Time Periods
18th century
19th century
20th century
17th century
21st century
Great Britain
Paris (France)
Naples (Italy)

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