What do you associate with chemistry? Explosions, innovative materials, plastics, pollution? The public's confused and contradictory conception of chemistry as basic science, industrial producer and polluter contributes to what we present in this book as chemistry's image as an impure science. Historically, chemistry has always been viewed as impure both in terms of its academic status and its role in transforming modern society. While exploring the history of this science we argue for a characteristic philosophical approach that distinguishes chemistry from physics. This reflection leads us to a philosophical stance that we characterise as operational realism. In this new expanded edition we delve deeper into the questions of properties and potentials that are so important for this philosophy that is based on the manipulation of matter rather than the construction of theories.
Introduction: Chemistry and Its Discontents; Chemistry and Pollution; The Damnation of the Alchemist; The Space of the Laboratory; Proof in the Laboratory; Chemistry Creates Its Object; A Duel between Two Conceptions of Matter; Chemistry versus Physics; Atoms or Elements; Positivism and Chemistry; Atoms as Fictions; Agency and Relations; Taming the Nanoworld; Towards a Responsible Chemistry.