Brown Bag: History of Chemistry: Who Cares?
March 15 @ 12:30 pm - 1:30 pm
Catherine M. Jackson, Ph.D.
Department of History
University of Wisconsin-Madison
History of Chemistry: Who Cares?
Chemistry around 1900 was the queen of the sciences. But recent decades have seen professional history of science move on from modern chemistry – and especially the discipline of organic chemistry – as though there were no more to say about it. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. The history of nineteenth century organic chemistry remains locked in history of ideas, and it does justice neither to the actors nor their accomplishments as a result. Misleading to chemists as practitioners, and especially to young chemists embarking on research careers, existing history and historiography cannot explain the rise of organic chemistry. As chemist, historian, and educator, Jackson’s particular mission is to re-write the history of organic chemistry. Extending a broadly STS framework into the history of chemistry, her work elucidates what nineteenth-century chemists knew and how they worked in ways that both re-engage present-day practitioners with their history and show the power of STS in history.