This book project (undertaken with co-editor Matthew D. Eddy) is the first of six volumes to appear in the international publication project A Cultural History of Chemistry (Bloomsbury, forthcoming in 2021). It includes an in-depth introduction by Ursula Klein and Matthew D. Eddy and a contribution on eighteenth-century chemical concepts and theories by Ursula Klein.
Setting the evolution of chemical science and technology in its social and cultural context, the volume questions the narrative of a “chemical revolution” in the late eighteenth century. Already boasting a laboratory culture open to manufacturing and commerce, in the course of the eighteenth century chemistry became a true discipline extending into academies and universities. Chemists studied myriads of materials derived from minerals, plants, and animals and also produced an increasing number of typical chemical substances such as acids, alkalis, and gases. Increased demands for chemical textbooks offered new opportunities for classifying substances, rethinking concepts, and elaborating new theories; the newly established chemical journals became a platform for promoting experimental research. By the end of the period—in Europe and across the globe—chemistry embodied the promise of progress and social welfare though the unification of practice and theory.