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Geoff Blumenthal awarded Best Doctoral Research Thesis

6 November 2017

Congratulations to Geoff Blumenthal who has been awarded the 2016/17 prize for the Best Doctoral Research Theses in the Faculty of Arts for his thesis on the Chemical Revolution.

'The Nature of the Chemical Revolution' by Geoffrey Blumenthal
Supervised by Dr Anthony Everett

The progressive nature of theory change in the natural sciences is best understood in the case of the Chemical Revolution by paying particular attention to the chemistry of the ‘losing’ theories. The regularity in nature which was represented by Stahl’s phlogiston was ‘negative oxygen’, or the absence of oxygen, rather than a substance as Stahl thought. Once oxygen was discovered, all of the many substantial efforts to produce an adjusted phlogistic theory failed, and this is most clearly understandable in Cavendish’s papers and in the criticisms by the Royal Society phlogistians of each other’s work. By contrast, Lavoisier’s basic theory did accurately latch on to some regularities in nature. The whole process in the Chemical Revolution shows social factors that underpinned the self-correcting nature of science. Scientific revolutions do not involve ‘rupture’, and the progress of science is neither homogenously accumulative nor discontinuous – its progress is generally cumulative but uneven with some large changes such as the Chemical Revolution.

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