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'Chemistry and the Limits of Human Knowledge'

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Lecture by Professor Hasok Chang

Chemistry is a science renowned for its mastery of nature.  However, a careful look at the historical development of chemistry reveals many interesting questions about the limits of human knowledge, even in this most confident and versatile of sciences.  These philosophical questions can be illustrated by a few selected highlights from the history of chemistry. Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier’s ’Chemical Revoluntion’ of the late 18th century, John Dalton’s chemical atomic theory in 1808, and, more recently, how we explain chemical bonding. The lesson here is that what we may take as secure modern scientific knowledge is always vulnerable to disturbance by the very progress of science. 

Hasok Chang is the Hans Rausing Professor of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge.  He has been a Professorial Fellow of Clare Hall since November 2010.

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