Foundations of Chemistry 7 (1):31-48 (2004)

Robin Hendry
Durham University
Lavoisier defined an element as a chemicalsubstance that cannot be decomposed usingcurrent analytical methods. Mendeleev saw anelement as a substance composed of atoms of thesame atomic weight. These `definitions' doquite different things: Lavoisier'sdistinguishes the elements from the compounds,so that the elements may form the basis of acompositional nomenclature; Mendeleev's offersa criterion of sameness and difference forelemental substances, while Lavoisier's doesnot. In this paper I explore the historical andtheoretical background to each proposal.Lavoisier's and Mendeleev's explicitconceptions of elementhood differed from eachother, and from the official IUPAC definitionof `element' of the 1920s. However, Lavoisierand Mendeleev both subscribed to – andemployed – a deeper notion of a chemicalelement as the component of compound substancesthat (i) can survive chemical change, and (ii)explains the chemical behaviour of itscompounds.
Keywords Philosophy   Chemistry/Food Science, general   Physical Chemistry   Philosophy of Science   History
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Reprint years 2005
DOI 10.1023/B:FOCH.0000042886.65679.4e
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Conceptual Fragmentation and the Rise of Eliminativism.Henry Taylor & Peter Vickers - 2017 - European Journal for Philosophy of Science 7 (1):17-40.
Elements, Compounds and Other Chemical Kinds.Robin Findlay Hendry - 2006 - Philosophy of Science 73 (5):864--875.
Elements, Compounds, and Other Chemical Kinds.Robin Findlay Hendry - 2006 - Philosophy of Science 73 (5):864-875.
Le Poidevin on the Reduction of Chemistry.Robin Findlay Hendry & Paul Needham - 2007 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 58 (2):339-353.

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