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Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2003 May;988:293-301.

The Lavoisier-Kirwan debate and approaches to the evaluation of theories.

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Division of Computing Technology, Bradford College, United Kingdom.


This paper applies concepts proposed by Larry Laudan for evaluation of scientific theories to problems that arose for Antoine Lavoisier's oxygen theory during the period from 1780 to 1790. Lavoisier's original theory (1779) had an empirical problem (why does dilute sulfuric acid produce hydrogen on contact with metals, whereas concentrated acid, even when heated, does not?). The solution to this puzzle led to a more refined conceptual problem, regarding the overall consistency of the theory. Conceptual arguments used by the French school of chemists to defend Antoine Lavoisier's oxygen theory against the phlogistic arguments (1784) of Richard Kirwan touch on the problem of criteria for satisfactory explanation.


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