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Products for grant RA-254182-17

Long-Term Research Fellowships at the Consortium for History of Science, Technology and Medicine
Babak Ashrafi, Philadelphia Area Center for History of Science

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“Origin of Forms and Qualities: Robert Boyle's Reply to William Harvey” (Conference Paper/Presentation)
Title: “Origin of Forms and Qualities: Robert Boyle's Reply to William Harvey”
Author: Ashley J. Inglehart
Abstract: This paper looks at famed chemist (or chymist) Robert Boyle’s Origin of Forms and Qualities and considers an un-named target of Boyle: William Harvey. Boyle published Origin of Forms and Qualities in 1666 as an attempt to eliminate reliance on Aristotelian forms, promoting instead his own corpuscular philosophy. In “The Historical Part” of Origin of Forms and Qualities, Boyle provides examples and experiments historically understood as involving substantial change, which he attempts to describe in terms of quality-less, uniform corpuscles. His very first example involves the hatching of an egg, or the development of a chick from diaphanous fluid. This paper argues that Boyle’s use of this example —from his introduction of it, to his description of how the egg develops, to his concluding remarks regarding the explanatory power of Harvey’s “plastick principle”— is a direct response to. Harvey had communicated his own views on the generation of chick eggs some fifteen years prior in Exercitationes de Generatione Animalium. A detailed analysis of his reply to Harvey can allow us to understand not only Boyle’s own account of animal generation but his methodical commitments more generally. Harvey holds that proper explanation lies in an account of the four Aristotelian causes, and his description of the plastic principle within the chick-egg is closely tied to his account of those causes. Boyle, however, rejects this approach and places the explanatory focus upon the material effects and modes of operations.
Date: 11/4/2018
Primary URL:
Primary URL Description: online program page for this presentation
Conference Name: History of Science Annual Meeting 2018