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ERIC Number: EJ814852
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2008-Nov
Pages: 11
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 20
ISSN: ISSN-0021-9584
Communicating about Matter with Symbols: Evolving from Alchemy to Chemistry
Fabbrizzi, Luigi
Journal of Chemical Education, v85 n11 p1501-1511 Nov 2008
Modern chemists know that alchemists were their historical predecessors, yet they are not proud of this relationship, which chemists today tend to hide or forget. However, no discontinuity exists between alchemy and chemistry and we still use laboratory techniques that were invented by alchemists hundreds or thousands of years ago. Alchemists used a secret language and made an extended use of symbols to indicate substances and procedures. When--in the second half of the 18th century--alchemy became quantitative and evolved into the discipline of chemistry, symbols were abandoned and replaced by abbreviations and formulas. However, the nature of the communication about matter by chemists remains mysterious to the uninitiated. (Contains 18 figures and 5 notes.)
Division of Chemical Education of the American Chemical Society. Subscription Department, P.O. Box 1267, Bellmawr, NJ 08099-1267. Tel: 800-691-9846; Tel: 856-931-5825; Fax: 856-931-4115; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A