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Published: Kem. Ind. 64 (5-6) (2015) 287−290
Paper reference number: KUI-19/2015
Paper type: Professional paper / Chemistry in Teaching
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The Moral of the Phlogiston Theory

N. Raos


The phlogiston theory, proposed in 1697 by German physician Georg Ernst Stahl (1659 – 1734), was the first scientific theory of combustion. However, it was abandoned by the end of the 18th century after the “Lavoisier revolution”, primarily because it was unable to explain the mass change during chemical reactions. In spite of this, there are modern revitalizations of the theory, claiming that phlogiston could be identified with the electron or even with Gibbs energy. Discussion about such interpretations would be stimulative for the better understanding of the differences between chemical reactions and chemical processes, oxidation and oxygenation, and especially for better understanding the nature of scientific theories. In my view, it is necessary to regard theories in their historical context; the resemblance of an old theory to a new one cannot be the criterion of its validity, much more important is the influence of the former theory on the development of science, especially in the establishment of new concepts.

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theories of combustion, history of chemistry, chemistry education, phlogiston, redox processes