University of Minnesota
School of Physics & Astronomy

Physics and Astronomy Calendar

Friday, April 13th 2018
Speaker: Lawrence Principe, Department of History of Science & Technology, Johns Hopkins University
Subject: "Wilhelm Homberg’s Laboratories and Instruments: Doing Chymistry in Early Modern France"
Refreshments served at 3:15 p.m.

One of chemistry’s chief characteristics is its union of head and hand, theory and practice, and the subsequent need for workspaces and instruments doing chemistry practically. Wilhelm Homberg (1653-1715), the chief chymist of the Parisian Académie Royale des Sciences, worked in many different spaces over the course of his remarkable career. Starting in 1702, he worked in what was called at the time “the most magnificent laboratory that chymistry had ever known”--a workspace specially-built for him in the Royal Palace by his patron (and collaborator) Philippe II, duc d’Orléans, the future Regent of France. Philippe also outfitted this laboratory with the most extraordinary--and costly--scientific instrument of time, and Homberg enjoyed exclusive access to it. This talk examines the various workspaces Homberg used, highlighting the results that he achieved and their relation to spaces and instruments, the role of patronage, and the changing nature of chymistry in the period.

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