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How do Structural Formulas Embody the Theory of Organic Chemistry?

Goodwin, William (2008) How do Structural Formulas Embody the Theory of Organic Chemistry? [Preprint]

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        Organic chemistry provides fertile ground for scholars interested in understanding the role of non-linguistic representations in scientific thinking. In this discipline, it is plausible to think of textual representation as supplementing theories whose principle expression is diagrammatic. Among the many sorts of diagrams employed by organic chemists, structural formulas are the most important. In this paper, by examining two central episodes in the development of structural formulas -- Kekulé’s proposal of a structure for benzene and Ingold’s explanation of dipole moments in terms of ‘mesomerism’ – I investigate how the norms for the production and interpretation of structural formulas evolve in response to experimental results. I conclude that one principle way in which structural formulas embody the theory of organic chemistry is through these evolving norms.

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        Item Type: Preprint
        Additional Information: to be presented at PSA 2008
        Keywords: organic chemistry, visual representation, scientific theories
        Subjects: General Issues > Structure of Theories
        Specific Sciences > Chemistry
        Depositing User: William Mark Goodwin
        Date Deposited: 25 Sep 2008
        Last Modified: 07 Oct 2010 11:17
        Item ID: 4202

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