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A History of Science (Volume 4)

A History of Science (Volume 4)

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Published by: irradio on Nov 26, 2008
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A HISTORY OF SCIENCE
BY HENRY SMITH WILLIAMS, M.D., LL.D.ASSISTED BY EDWARD H. WILLIAMS, M.D.
 
IN FIVE VOLUMESVOLUME IV.
 
MODERN DEVELOPMENT OF THECHEMICAL AND BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES
 
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History of Science
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A HISTORY OF SCIENCEBOOK IVMODERN DEVELOPMENT OF THE CHEMICAL AND BIOLOGICAL SCIENCESAS regards chronology, the epoch covered in the present volume isidentical with that viewed in the preceding one. But now asregards subject matter we pass on to those diverse phases of thephysical world which are the field of the chemist, and to thoseyet more intricate processes which have to do with livingorganisms. So radical are the changes here that we seem to beentering new worlds; and yet, here as before, there areintimations of the new discoveries away back in the Greek days.The solution of the problem of respiration will remind us thatAnaxagoras half guessed the secret; and in those diversifiedstudies which tell us of the Daltonian atom in its wonderfultransmutations, we shall be reminded again of the Clazomenianphilosopher and his successor Democritus.Yet we should press the analogy much too far were we to intimatethat the Greek of the elder day or any thinker of a more recentperiod had penetrated, even in the vaguest way, all of themysteries that the nineteenth century has revealed in the fieldsof chemistry and biology. At the very most the insight of thosegreat Greeks and of the wonderful seventeenth-centuryphilosophers who so often seemed on the verge of our laterdiscoveries did no more than vaguely anticipate their successorsof this later century. To gain an accurate, really specific
 
History of Science
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 knowledge of the properties of elementary bodies was reserved forthe chemists of a recent epoch. The vague Greek questionings asto organic evolution were world-wide from the precise inductionsof a Darwin. If the mediaeval Arabian endeavored to dull theknife of the surgeon with the use of drugs, his results hardlymerit to be termed even an anticipation of modern anaesthesia.And when we speak of preventive medicine--of bacteriology in allits phases--we have to do with a marvellous field of which noprevious generation of men had even the slightest inkling.All in all, then, those that lie before us are perhaps the mostwonderful and the most fascinating of all the fields of science.As the chapters of the preceding book carried us out into amacrocosm of inconceivable magnitude, our present studies are toreveal a microcosm of equally inconceivable smallness. As thestudies of the physicist attempted to reveal the very nature ofmatter and of energy, we have now to seek the solution of the yetmore inscrutable problems of life and of mind.I. THE PHLOGISTON THEORY IN CHEMISTRYThe development of the science of chemistry from the "science" ofalchemy is a striking example of the complete revolution in theattitude of observers in the field of science. As has beenpointed out in a preceding chapter, the alchemist, having apreconceived idea of how things should be, made all his

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