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Department of History and Philosophy of Science


AD HOC (Association for the Discussion of the History of Chemistry) is a group dedicated to the history of chemistry. While our main focus is historical, we also consider the philosophical, sociological, public and educational dimensions of chemistry.

AD HOC has been meeting in various configurations since the summer of 2004, first at UCL and then also in Cambridge since 2010. Since 2008 our activities have been generously supported by the Society for the History of Alchemy and Chemistry (SHAC).

This term we will continue with the format of online discussion meetings. The focus will be on the latest work on the history of early chemistry and alchemy, and each time we will be joined by the author herself or himself in the discussion.

We will be meeting on Mondays at 5.00–6.30pm. Please contact Hasok Chang (hc372) if you would like to be on the mailing list of the group. Those on the list will receive the links for joining the online meetings, the exact specification or copies of the readings, and all updates on future activities.

Easter Term 2021

3 May

Discussion of Christoph Meinel, 'Theory or Practice? The Eighteenth-Century Debate on the Scientific Status of Chemistry', Ambix 30:3 (1983), 121–132.

17 May

Discussion of Peter Ramberg, 'The Death of Vitalism and the Birth of Organic Chemistry: Wohler's Urea Synthesis and the Disciplinary Identity of Organic Chemistry', Ambix 47:3 (2000), 170–195.

7 June

Discussion of Andrew Sparling, 'Paracelsus, a Transmutational Alchemist', Ambix 67:1 (2020), 62–87.

11 June

Friday, 3.30–5.00pm, Joint meeting with Coffee with Scientists
Discussion with Joaquín Pérez Pariente, Research Professor, Institute of Catalysis and Petroleum Chemistry, Spanish Research Council (CSIC): 'Reproduction of an 18th-century Recipe for Potable Gold: A Case Study on the Recovery and Use of Forgotten Knowledge'.