Contents Index

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.