The Significance of the Origin of Physical Chemistry for Physical Chemistry Education: The Case of Electrolyte Solution Chemistry

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de Berg, K. C. (2014). The significance of the origin of physical chemistry for physical chemistry education: the case of electrolyte solution chemistry . Chemistry Education Research and Practice, 15(3), 266-275. doi:10.1039/C4RP00010B

ISSN: 1765-1108


030605 Solution Chemistry| 130212 Science, Technology and Engineering Curriculum and Pedagogy| 220206 History and Philosophy of Science (incl. Non-historical Philosophy of Science)

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Physical Chemistry's birth was fraught with controversy, a controversy about electrolyte solution chemistry which has much to say about how scientific knowledge originates, matures, and responds to challenges. This has direct implications for the way our students are educated in physical chemistry in particular and science in general. The incursion of physical measurement and mathematics into a discipline which had been largely defined within a laboratory of smells, bangs, and colours was equivalent to the admission into chemistry of the worship of false gods according to one chemist. The controversy can be classified as a battle between dissociationists on the one hand and associationists on the other; between the Europeans on the one hand and the British on the other; between the ionists on the one hand and the hydrationists on the other. Such strong contrasts set the ideal atmosphere for the development of argumentation skills. The fact that a compromise position, first elaborated in the late 19th century, has recently enhanced the explanatory capacity for electrolyte solution chemistry is challenging but one in which students can participate to their benefit.


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