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Title: Time and chemical change : the development of temporal concepts in chemistry, with special reference to the work of Augustus Vernon Harcourt
Author: King, M. Christine
ISNI:       0000 0001 3599 8024
Awarding Body: Open University
Current Institution: Open University
Date of Award: 1981
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The concept of time is an important one in the History of Philosophy and of Science. But ideas concerning time and its related phenomenon, that of change, are inherently complex. The study of chemistry involves an understanding of the process of change, a time—dependent function. In fact, the development of temporal ideas in chemistry evolved very late in its theory, around 1850, when Ludwig Wilhelmy first carried out measurements of chemical rate and Alexander Williamson, in the same year, published his ideas on the dynamics of chemistry. In chemistry, the concept of time is to be found most clearly established in the discipline of reaction kinetics. In its development, this has been bound to the idea of the course of chemical change, as a phenomenon quite distinct from the study of the products of chemical reaction, or chemical composition, on which many of the early chemists were so deeply engrossed. The establishment of time into chemical theory was due largely to the ideas and work of Guldberg and Waage in Norway, and Harcourt and Esson at Oxford. Harcourt recognised at a very early stage in his studies that what chemists had always neglected was the close observation of the actual course of chemical change, of the time factor involved in these changes. The foundations of these ideas were laid at the very beginning Harcourt's long career at Oxford, but he was to spend the subsequent fifty years perfecting his techniques. Perhaps because of the late development of their time awareness, some philosophers of science have come to believe n that chemists desired, somehow, to 'eliminate time' from chemical theory. The present work is an attempt to trace the evolution of temporal ideas in chemistry and the eventual recognition of the course of chemical change as a dynamic phenomenon. It also discusses the role of philosophy in the development of chemical theories, a development which is bound, like all events, to the element of time.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Chemistry, general