A Dissertation on Elective Attractions

A Dissertation on Elective Attractions
A 1775 first edition (ΡΊ) of Swedish chemist Torbern Bergman’s Dissertation on Elective Attractions, shown with large fold-out affinity table, the 1885 German edition of which was used by Goethe to script Elective Affinities, the founding book of human chemistry and forerunner to the science of human chemical thermodynamics.
In famous publications, A Dissertation on Elective Attractions is a 1775 chemistry textbook, 382-pages in length, by Swedish chemist Torbern Bergman, styled as a “manual of theoretical chemistry”, which took the science of affinity chemistry, initiated in 1718 with the affinity table logic of French chemist Étienne Geoffroy, to a premiere status of the 18th century. [1]

The Dissertation contains a 59-row 50-column affinity table, the biggest one ever made, as well as reaction schematic diagram (depicting 64 reactions), explaining single and double elective affinity reactions in pictorial form, styled on the 1754 chemical ‘equation’ diagrams, i.e. bonding “brackets”, { and }, reaction “darts” (→), “heated” (Δ) reaction, reaction in “water” (∇), etc., pioneered in the lecture notes of Scottish chemist William Cullen and his student English chemist Joseph Black. [2] The Dissertation was the first to introduce letter symbols for both single and attached chemical species, as in a, b, ac, abd, abcd, etc., in a sense the forerunner notations to modern chemical equations.

The textbook was first published as a 1775 Latin edition entitled Disquisitio de Attractionibus Electivis, in the issue of the Acta of the Royal Society of Uppsala for 1775 (vol. 2 of "Nova acta Regiae societatis scientiarum upsaliensis").

French extracts from the original version appear in the 1778 edition Rozier's Observations sur la Physique 13 (Supplement), pages 298-333.

In 1783, Bergman published a revised version.

The first English edition, based on the revised second edition was published in 1785 by English physician-chemist Thomas Beddoes. [3]

The first German translation, done by Heinrich Tabor, appeared in 1785, according to scholars including Alistair Duncan (1970) and Reginald Hollingdale (1971).

Alternatively, Australian philosopher Sandra Lynch (2005) states that the German edition appeared in 1782. [10]

The first French edition was published in 1788.

The first Italian translation was done in 1801.

The second English edition, a reprinting of the 1785 Beddoes translation, was published in 1970, with a preface by Alistair Duncan.

Jeremy Adler states that Goethe would have most likely read the Tabor German edition; although it is possible that he read the original Latin version; Goethe, in his Truth and Poetry autobiography: [9]

“I had thus learned Latin, German, French, and English, merely by practice, without rules, and without conception. Whoever knows the condition of school instruction then, will not think it strange that I skipped grammar as well as rhetoric; all seemed to me to come together naturally; I retained the words, their forms and inflexions, in my ear and mind, and used the language with ease in writing and in chattering.”

Chemical equations
The following is #20 of Bergman's reaction diagrams (chemical equation), of sixty-four in total, showing the "decomposition of calcareous hepar by vitriolic acid":

Chemical reaction (Bergman vs modern)

which in words, the calcareous hepar,
calcareous hepar( CaS \,)
described such that it has its "proximate principles [are] united", which are calcareous earth (calcium oxide, CaO) and sulphur (S):
calcareous earth( CaO \,)
sulphur( S \,)
is decomposed [reacts with] vitriolic acid (sulfuric acid, H2SO4):
vitriolic acid( H_2 SO_4 \,)
in water, ∇ (H20), indicating that “the three surrounding bodies freely exercise their attractive powers in it”, to form gypsum and elemental sulphur:
Gypsum( CaSO_4 \,)
sulphur( S \,)
The separation of the signs of calcareous earth and hepar inside the vertical bracket { represents breaking of the combination of these two “proximate principles” by the action of the vitriolic acid, which “attracts calcareous earth more strongly than sulphur does.” The signs of the calcareous earth and vitriolic acid are placed side by side above a complete horizontal bracket—the indication that a new combination—the point of which is turned downwards to imitate that the new compound (vitriolated calcareous earth or gypsum) is precipitated. The fact that sulphur, which is the other product of the reaction, also precipitates, is indicated by turning downwards the point of the lower horizontal half bracket. [5] In modern terms, calcium sulfide CaS is decomposed by sulfuric acid H2SO4 in water calcium sulfate CaSO4, which precipitates (down full-bracket) and to produce elemental sulfur S which precipitates (downward half-bracket); which, neglecting intermediates, would be written as:

Bergman reaction 20 modern new

This reaction, of course, is an example of a single elective affinity (reaction), and in Bergman chemical species letter notation would be categorized as the following "type" of reaction:

Human chemical reactions (Bergman to Goethe to Thims)

This thus explains the "symbols" Goethe had in mind in the writing of his greatest work.

Elective Affinities
See main: Elective Affinities (book), elective affinity
Torbern’s Dissertation functioned as the reference textbook for the scripting of the first human elective affinity reactions, found as “layers of Gestalt”, in German polymath Johann Goethe’s 1809 novella Elective Affinities, the founding book of the science of human chemistry. [4] To exemplify this, in 1808, a year prior to the publication of his novella, Goethe commented to his friend Riemer: [6]

“The moral symbols used in the natural sciences were the elective affinities discovered and employed by the great Bergman.”

In a conversation with Riemer on 24 July 1809, Goethe specifically names Bergman as a source for his for the idea of “elective affinity”, using the early German translation of that term, namely “Wahlverwandtschaft”, which became an inspiration for his novel. [7]

In his novella, Goethe built on this premise by laying out this logic of "moral symbols", in literary form, where each chapter, in underlying theoretical basis, was considered as a different type of affinity reaction or chemical reaction in the modern sense. In chapter three, for instance, in the mind of Goethe, the Captain C arrives to stay with the married couple Eduard A and Charlotte B, after which time Edward and the Captain rekindle their old friendship, thus displacing Charlotte from their activities. This is depicted below in the Bergman reaction diagram style of what was called a single elective affinity:
Cullen's reaction diagram (modern view)
Or in a modern reaction sense, chemical species A and B are attached in a weakly bonded chemical union, signified by the bonding bracket “{“, ordered such that if species C were introduced into the system, the greater affinity preference of A for C would cause A to displace B and to thus form a new union with C, which equates to the following in modern terms:

AB + CAC + B

Goethe scripted each chapter in his novella based on variations of these types of affinity reactions. [4] The first to examine, in detail, the exact affinity reactions used by Goethe, was German science historian Jeremy Adler who in 1969, on the suggestion of his advising professor Claus Bock did his PhD dissertation on the theoretical chemistry, chemists, and specific elective affinity reactions underling the chapters to Goethe’s novella. [7]

19th century affinity chemistry
At the turn of the 19th century, affinity chemistry split into valence chemistry (1850s) (or quantum chemistry (1920s)) and chemical thermodynamics (1880s), wherein the measure of affinity A between reactants was determined to be a quantity called free energy G, according to formulations such as:

A=-\left(\frac{\partial G}{\partial \xi}\right)_{p,T}

Likewise, with the determination of the set of known elements, in the arrangement of the periodic table (1860s), structural bonding changes and were soon determined to be connected to dynamics related to electron-photon interactions and geometries, and the symbolized nature of alchemical species were replaced by exact molecular formulas characterized as reactants and products of chemical reactions progressing through mechanisms. In turn, the carryover of Goethe’s theory of human elective affinity reactions, into modern formulation became more complicated.

Human chemistry
In the 1914 book Human Chemistry, American engineer William Fairburn declares that “today there are eighty-one known elements” and openly discusses his views that people, as combinations of these elements, are “human chemical elements” and that the job of the “human chemist”, i.e. the manager or foreman, is to achieve successful “reactions resulting from combinations of individuals”. Fairburn states that human reactions can be quantified by energy and entropy changes and on the topic of affinity chemistry, he states:

“Just as there are many affinities among the chemical elements, so there are many possible harmonious combinations of human workers; some of these harmonious combinations, however, of both chemical and human elements, may become violently explosive when subjected to an outside influence.”

Fairburn’s general view, however, is rather elementary, being half metaphorical and half suppositional in theme. In commentary on the relationship of entropy S to human reactions (relationships), for instance, he states: [8]

“The classified division of entropy, referring to temperature changes which can be likened to coolness, passion, explosiveness and frigidity, are all interesting but of themselves prove little.”

In the modern sense, the nature of entropy in human chemical reactions is a in depth topic. In a reaction in which a group of human molecules (people) are thrown into a closed reaction vessel, such as the grounds of the estate in Goethe's novella or a isolated island, the following affinity formula will dictate the progression of the overall process:

A= T\Delta S - \Delta H \,

When more factors are added in, such as movements of chemical species into or out of the system or external influences (forces), the nature of the study and prediction of human chemical reactions becomes immensely more complicated. [4] In 1995, American chemical engineer Libb Thims, for instance, after learning about the spontaneity criterion in chemical thermodynamics, studied the following Gibbs free energy equation:

 \Delta G = \Delta H - T\Delta S \,

for a period of seven years (1995-2001), before it began to make any sort of sense as to how to apply the terms ΔS and ΔH apply in the understanding of the phenomenon of human existence and behavior. Moreover, Thims did not know who Goethe was or learn of his elective affinity work until circa 2006 after reading a reference to his theory of human affinities in the back footnotes section of Belgian chemist Ilya Prigogine’s 1982 book Order Out of Chaos; thus soon finding corroboration on his views with that of Goethe via the following affinity-free energy equation:

A= -\Delta G \,

originally formulated by Belgian thermodynamicist Theophile de Donder in the 1920s.

1. (a) Bergman, Torbern. (1775). A Dissertation on Elective Attractions. London: Frank Cass & Co.
(b) Quote: “manual of theoretical chemistry” (preface comments by English translator: Anon)
(b) Geoffroy, Étienne F. (1718). Tableau des différentes Rapports Observées entre Différentes Substances (Table of the Different Relations Observed between Different Substances). France.
2. (a) Bergman's 64-reaction diagrams (scan) - School of Chemical Sciences, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
(b) Crosland, M. P. (1959). “The use of diagrams as chemical ‘equations’ in the lecture notes of William Cullen and Joseph Black.” Annals of Science, Vol 15, Num 2, June.
3. (a) Appendix I: “A Note on the Identity of the Translator”, In: A Dissertation on Elective Attractions, second edition, with a new Introduction by A.M. Duncan, Frank Cass & Co., 1970.
(b) Thomas Beddoes – Wikipedia.
4. Thims, Libb. (2007). Human Chemistry (Volume Two), (preview), (ch. 10: Goethe’s Affinities, pgs. 371-421; ch. 16: Human Thermodynamics, section: History, pgs. 665-74). Morrisville, NC: LuLu.
5. Muir, Matthew M.P. (1907). A History of Chemical Theories and Laws (ch. XIV: Chemical Affinity, pgs. 379-430, esp. keyword: “Bergmann”, pgs. 384-94). Wiley.
6. (a) Wiese, Benno von. (1951). Anmerkungen to Die Wahlverwandtschaften. In Goethe’s Werke, edited by Benno von Wiese. Vol. 19. Pg. 621, Hamberg: Wegener.
(b) Tantillo, Astrida O. (2001). Goethe's Elective Affinities and the Critics. New York: Camden House.
7. (a) Adler, Jeremy. (1987). “Eine fast magische Anziehungskraft”. Goethe’s “Wahlverwandtschafte” und die Chemie seiner Zeit (“An almost Magical Attraction”). Goethe’s Elective Affinity and the Chemistry of its Time), Munich.
(b) Adler, Jeremy. (1990). "Goethe's use of chemical theory in his Elective Affinities" (ch. 18, pgs. 263-79) in Romanticism and the Sciences - edited by Andrew Cunningham and Nicholas Jardine, New York: Cambridge University Press.
8. Fairburn, William Armstrong. (1914). Human Chemistry (pgs. 2-4, 12-13). The Nation Valley Press, Inc.
9. Goethe, Johann. (1897). The Autobiography of Goethe: Truth and Poetry; from My Own Life, Volumes 1-2 (pg. 200). G. Bell and sons.
10. Lynch, Sandra. (2005). Philosophy and Friendship (Elective Affinities, pg. 36; Crebillon, pg. 37). Edinburgh University Press.

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