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Feverish Bodies, Enlightened MindsScience and the Yellow Fever Controversy in the Early American Republic$
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Thomas Apel

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780804797405

Published to Stanford Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9780804797405.001.0001

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“Nature Is the Great Experimenter”

“Nature Is the Great Experimenter”

Chapter:
(p.65) Three “Nature Is the Great Experimenter”
Source:
Feverish Bodies, Enlightened Minds
Author(s):

Thomas A. Apel

Publisher:
Stanford University Press
DOI:10.11126/stanford/9780804797405.003.0004

Chapter Three examines the investigators’ uses of the new chemistry of Antoine Laurent Lavoisier. Lavoisier’s “chemical revolution” produced a Kuhnian paradigm shift that fundamentally altered scientists’ conceptions of the elemental construction of matter. Investigators’ used it to identify the chemical constitution of the particles that caused yellow fever, but not as their French creators had intended. During an period of war and revolution, investigators’ were troubled by the very Frenchness of Lavoisier’s chemistry, and they utterly rejected the experimental programme of the French for its basis in heretical doctrines. Celebrating the common sense capacities of the mind, chemists produced fanciful, reverential, and highly theoretical theories about the chemical origins of yellow fever, which anticipated strains of Romanticism in American science. Again, chemistry redounded to the benefit of the localists who used the science to construct plausible theories about the chemical identity of the miasmas that brought on the disease.

Keywords:   experiment, chemistry, Lavoisier, Chemical Revolution, Romanticism, phlogiston, caloric

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