Julius Thomsen and classical thermochemistry

The British Journal for the History of Science (Impact Factor: 0.4). 10/1984; 17(03):255 - 272. DOI: 10.1017/S0007087400021294

ABSTRACT Classical thermochemistry is inextricably bound up with the problem of chemical affinity. In 1851, when Julius Thomsen began his career in thermochemistry, the concept of chemical affinity had been in the centre of chemical enquiry for more than a century. In spite of many suggestions, preferably to explain affinity in terms of electrical or gravitational forces, almost nothing was known about the cause and nature of affinity. In this state of puzzling uncertainty some chemists felt it more advantageous to establish an adequate experimental measure of affinity, whatever its nature was. One way of providing affinity with a quantitative description was by means of the heats evolved in chemical processes.