This article was originally published as:
de Berg, K.C. (2014). Teaching chemistry for all its worth: The interaction between facts, ideas, and language in Lavoisier's and Priestley's chemistry practice: The case of the study of the composition of air. Science and Education, 23(10), 2045-2068. doi:10.1007/s11191-014-9712-z
Both Lavoisier and Priestley were committed to the role of experiment and observation in their chemistry practice. According to Lavoisier the physical sciences embody three important ingredients; facts, ideas, and language, and Priestley would not have disagreed with this. Ideas had to be consistent with the facts generated from experiment and observation and language needed to be precise and reflect the known chemistry of substances. While Priestley was comfortable with a moderate amount of hypothesis making, Lavoisier had no time for what he termed theoretical speculation about the fundamental nature of matter and avoided the use of the atomic hypothesis and Aristotle’s elements in his Elements of Chemistry. In the preface to this famous work he claims he has good educational reasons for this position. While Priestley and Lavoisier used similar kinds of apparatus in their chemistry practice, they came to their task with completely different worldviews as regards the nature of chemical reactivity. This paper examines these worldviews as practiced in the famous experiment on the composition of air and the implications of this for chemistry education are considered.
de Berg, Kevin C., "Teaching Chemistry for All Its Worth: The Interaction Between Facts, Ideas, and Language in Lavoisier’s and Priestley’s Chemistry Practice: The Case of the Study of the Composition of Air" (2014). Science and Mathematics Papers and Journal Articles. 50.