From Physical Chemistry to Quantum Chemistry: How Chemists Dealt with Mathematics

Hyle 18 (1):45 - 69 (2012)


Discussing the relationship of mathematics to chemistry is closely related to the emergence of physical chemistry and of quantum chemistry. We argue that, perhaps, the most significant issue that the 'mathematization of chemistry' has historically raised is not so much methodological, as it is philosophical: the discussion over the ontological status of theoretical entities which were introduced in the process. A systematic study of such an approach to the mathematization of chemistry may, perhaps, contribute to the realist/antirealist debate. To this end, in this paper we briefly discuss Lewis' introduction of fugacity and activity to his chemical thermodynamics and more fully analyze the issues surrounding the appropriation of resonance by Linus Pauling into quantum chemistry, particularly as these issues arose in organic chemistry as discussed by George W. Wheland

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