By Christopher Hamlin
A technological know-how of Impurity is the 1st designated historical past of the mobilization of chemistry (and later bacteriology) to satisfy the general public call for for strong water. It additionally bargains a point of view on figuring out how sleek actual sciences are tapped to make sure public solid.
A technological know-how of Impurity explores the social framework within which chemists got here to paintings on difficulties of water caliber, the suggestions they used to review the surroundings, their conclusions and their function in facing a frightened public.
For historians of technology, researchers and planners within the water undefined.
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Extra info for A Science of Impurity: Water Analysis in Nineteenth Century Britain
What was in the water was an artefact of the particular conditions under which the water happened to exist at the time of analysis; the way it acted in the body was due more to the interaction of water and body than to the properties of the stable salts that analysts recovered in analysis. In a sense then they were searching for an entity which, at least as they conceived it, did not exist. They were looking for stable substances where an inquiry into the responses of ions to changing conditions might have been more illuminating.
59 Murray's second experiment was to add sodium sulphate to the mineral water and then evaporate as in a normal analysis. 60 Yet neither experiment was conclusive, Murray admitted, for precisely the reasons he had alluded to. In the first experiment, the fact that no calcium sulphate crystallized was no proof that the added sodium sulphate had not reacted with calcium chloride to form it. 61 What then could one conclude about the composition of mineral waters? Very little. ' If it can be shown that the elements of these compounds may equally exist in the water in a different state of combination, which the evaporation must change [which Murray felt he had demonstrated in his two experiments], the conclusion that they do exist in such a state is a priori as probable as the conclusion that they exist in the state in < previous page page_34 next page > < previous page page_35 next page > Page 35 which they are actually obtained.
Bergman's procedure was easy and it was imbued with Englightenment optimism. The separations were believed to be completeno calcium chloride was to remain undissolved in the alcohol. Its achievement seemed a triumph of eighteenth century rationality and it is no accident that Bergman, the achiever, was also the formulator of the most detailed affinity tables of the late eighteenth century on which the residue analysis was based. Both the water analysis and the affinity tables reflected the confidence that nature, at the level chemists studied her, was as intelligently organized and rigidly differentiated as it was at the organismic level studied by Bergman's colleague, Linnaeus.
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