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Reviewed by:
  • Materials in Eighteenth-Century Science: A Historical Ontology
  • Jack H. Westbrook (bio)
Materials in Eighteenth-Century Science: A Historical Ontology. By Ursula KleinWolfgang Lefèvre. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2007. Pp. x+345. $45.

This is one of sixteen books in the series titled Transformations: Studies in the History of Science and Technology, edited by Jed Buchwald, now of the California Institute of Technology. Both authors of this volume, Ursula Klein and Wolfgang Lefèvre, are German, but the English is generally excellent.

The sixteen chapters of Materials in Eighteenth-Century Science are divided into three approximately equal parts: “18th Century Science, Contexts and Practices”; “A World of Pure Chemical Substances”; and “A Different World: Plant Substances.” There are 400 references, extensive footnotes, [End Page 1104] a name index, and a subject index. The emphasis throughout is on eighteenth-century European chemistry. At that time substances were classified either by chemical composition or provenance and properties. Now we deal with over ten million different materials and tend to group these more by structure or application. The book focuses on the transition, around 1830, from experiential or quotidian classification to the more fundamental approaches of today. It is a well-written exposition of an important change in materials science, and the coverage is very broad. [End Page 1105]

Jack H. Westbrook

Dr. Westbrook is with Brookline Technologies in Salt Lake City, Utah.



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