rational theory of chemistry
During the latter part of the eighteenth-century the life sciences were
undergoing a radical transformation of their conduct, substituting
scrupulous taxonomic categorization and rigorous inductive experimentation
for the slippery conceptual ordering and deductive animism inherited from
medieval and Renaissance paradigms. The exacting science of chemistry
influenced these developments and, in turn, was given impetus by the
responsiveness of the life sciences to their renewed systemization.
When Victor speaks of a "rational theory," he means, at least in part,
such a logical ordering of constituent knowledge within the discipline.
In the early decades of the nineteenth century, particularly in Great
Britain under the guidance of figures like John Dalton and Humphrey Davy, chemistry made enormous
advances in basic knowledge, winning for the discipline something of a
cachet among educated people.