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2020

What Is A Chemical Element?

A Collection of Essays by Chemists, Philosophers, Historians, and Educators Edited by Eric Scerri and Elena Ghibaudi published by Oxford University Press

  • A collection of 14 edited papers from historians of chemistry, philosophers of chemistry, and chemists with epistemological and educational concerns
  • Contains educational debates concerning how to teach and present the concept of elements
  • Provides a beneficial, scholarly, unique, and understandable overview of the current debate on the chemical elemen.

The concept of a chemical element is foundational within the field of chemistry, but there is wide disagreement over its definition. Even the International Union for Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) claims two distinct definitions: a species of atoms versus one which identifies chemical elements with the simple substances bearing their names. The double definition of elements proposed by the International Union for Pure and Applied Chemistry contrasts an abstract meaning and an operational one. Nevertheless, the philosophical aspects of this notion are not fully captured by the IUPAC definitions, despite the fact that they were crucial for the construction of the Periodic Table. Although rich scientific literature on the element and the periodic table exists as well as a recent growth in the philosophy of chemistry, scholars are still searching for a definitive answer to this important question: What is an element?

Eric Scerri and Elena Ghibaudi have teamed up to assemble a group of scholars to provide readers an overview of the current state of the debate on chemical elements from epistemological, historical, and educational perspectives. What Is A Chemical Element? fills a gap for the benefit of the whole chemistry community-experimental researchers, philosophers, chemistry educators, and anyone looking to learn more about the elements of the periodic table.

Foreword
Introduction
CHAPTER 1: The many questions raised by the dual concept of 'element' Eric R. Scerri
CHAPTER 2: From simple substance to chemical element Bernadette Bensaude-Vincent
CHAPTER 3: Dmitrii Mendeleev's concept of the chemical element prior to the Periodic Law Nathan M. Brooks
CHAPTER 4: Referring to chemical elements and compounds: Colourless airs in late eighteenth century chemical practice Geoffrey Blumenthal, James Ladyman, and Vanessa Seifert
CHAPTER 5: The Changing Relation Between Atomicity and Elementarity: From Lavoisier to Dalton Marina P. Banchetti-Robino
CHAPTER 6: Origins of the Ambiguity of the Current Definition of Chemical Element Joseph E. Earley
CHAPTER 7: The Existence of Elements, and the Elements of Existence Robin F. Hendry
CHAPTER 8: Kant, Cassirer, and the Idea of Chemical Element Farzad Mahootian
CHAPTER 9: The Operational Definition of the Elements: A Philosophical Reappraisal Joachim Schummer
CHAPTER 10: Substance and Function: The case of Chemical Elements Jean-Pierre Llored
CHAPTER 11: Making elements Klaus Ruthenberg
CHAPTER 12: A formal approach to the conceptual development of chemical element Guillermo Restrepo
CHAPTER 13: Chemical Elements and Chemical Substances: Rethinking Paneth's Distinction Sara N. Hjimans
CHAPTER 14: The dual conception of the chemical element: epistemic aspects and implications for chemical education Elena Ghibaudi, Alberto Regis, and Ezio Roletto
Appendix: Reference list on the philosophy of chemistry Index.

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