Image and Reality: Kekule, Kopp, and the Scientific Imagination

Image and Reality: Kekule, Kopp, and the Scientific Imagination

by Alan J. Rocke
     
 

Nineteenth-century chemists were faced with a particular problem: how to depict the atoms and molecules that are beyond the direct reach of our bodily senses. In visualizing this microworld, these scientists were the first to move beyond high-level philosophical speculations regarding the unseen. In Image and Reality, Alan Rocke focuses on the community

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Overview

Nineteenth-century chemists were faced with a particular problem: how to depict the atoms and molecules that are beyond the direct reach of our bodily senses. In visualizing this microworld, these scientists were the first to move beyond high-level philosophical speculations regarding the unseen. In Image and Reality, Alan Rocke focuses on the community of organic chemists in Germany to provide the basis for a fuller understanding of the nature of scientific creativity. 

Arguing that visual mental images regularly assisted many of these scientists in thinking through old problems and new possibilities, Rocke uses a variety of sources, including private correspondence, diagrams and illustrations, scientific papers, and public statements, to investigate their ability to not only imagine the invisibly tiny atoms and molecules upon which they operated daily, but to build detailed and empirically based pictures of how all of the atoms in complicated molecules were interconnected. These portrayals of “chemical structures,” both as mental images and as paper tools, gradually became an accepted part of science during these years and are now regarded as one of the central defining features of chemistry.  In telling this fascinating story in a manner accessible to the lay reader, Rocke also suggests that imagistic thinking is often at the heart of creative thinking in all fields.

Image and Reality is the first book in the Synthesis series, a series in the history of chemistry, broadly construed, edited by Angela N. H. Creager, John E. Lesch, Stuart W. Leslie, Lawrence M. Principe, Alan Rocke, E.C. Spary, and Audra J. Wolfe, in partnership with the Chemical Heritage Foundation.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780226723327
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
Publication date:
05/15/2010
Series:
Synthesis Series
Pages:
416
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.20(d)

Meet the Author

Alan Rocke is the Henry Eldridge Bourne Professor of History at Case Western Reserve University and the author of several books, including, most recently, Nationalizing Science: Adolphe Wurtz and the Battle for French Chemistry.

Table of Contents

Preface

List of Abbreviations

1 Ether/Or

Springtime for Chemistry?

The Education of Alexander Williamson

Interpreting Chemical Atoms

Williamson and Graham

Grasping the Ether

The Experimental Dissection of Molecules

Excursus: Isolated Radicals?

The Spread of Williamsonian Theory


2
The Architect of Molecules

The Education of August Kekulé

Kekulé in London

Excursus: The Road to Valence

Molecular Dreams


3
Building an Unseen Structure

The Start of a Teaching Career

Early Work in Heidelberg

The Theory of Polyatomic Radicals

The Theory of Atomicity of the Elements

Molecular Epistemology


4
A Barometer of the Science

Writing a Textbook

Formulas, Models, Reality

Excursus: A Case in Point

Erlenmeyer and Molecular Theory

Constant or Variable Atomicity?


5
The Heuristics of Molecular Representation

Couper

Loschmidt

Butlerov

Crum Brown

Excursus: Heurism in Action

The Fate of the New Graphic Formulas


6
Molecules as Metaphors

Natural Types

Absolute Formulas

Excursus: Looking through the Stereoscope

Molecular Democracy or Autocracy?

The Revenge of Jupiter’s Children


7
Aromatic Apparitions

First Approaches to the Problem

Enter the Hexagon

Benzene through the Phenakistoscope

Excursus: Ring around the Rosie

Metachemistry?


8
Dimensional Molecules

Early Stereospatial Speculations

The Spiral Staircase

The Pyramid

Imagination in Science: Point/Counterpoint

Chemists, Physicists, and the Microworld


9
Kopp’s World

The Making of a Chemist-Historian

In amongst the Molecules

The Response

The Thirsty Chemists


10
Kekulé’s “Dreams”

The Festivities in Berlin

Kekulé’s Speech

The Aftermath

The Eureka Experience and the Unconscious Mind


11
The Scientific Image-ination

Mental Images and Science

Mental Images and History

Transdictive Images in Physics and in Chemistry

Bibliography

Index

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