Chemical symbol notation

In chemistry, chemical symbol notation refers to the usage of symbols, such as letters or alchemical symbols, and notation, such as subscripts or prefixed number multipliers, employed to represent atoms, molecules, chemical species, chemical substances, compounds, supermolecules, and or atomic geometries, etc., in the course of or description of chemical processes and or reactions in chemical equation specification.

Alchemy → Chemistry | Bergman
The switch from the usage of alchemical symbols, such as the crescent moon symbol ☽ for silver, which tended to have astrological meaning, to pure chemical generic letter representation, such as A or b, to represent chemical species, single, A, or attached in union, Ab, was introduced in the 1775 textbook A Dissertation on Elective Attractions by Swedish chemist Torbern Bergman. The famous transition paragraph, wherein, letter usage is introduced, occurs on page six of his treatise, wherein Bergman explains what he chapter subsections as the single elective attraction, as such:

Reaction oneReaction two
Single elective attractions (one)Single elective attractions (two)
“Suppose A to be a substance for which other heterogeneous substances a, b, c, etc., have and attraction; suppose, further, A, combined with c to saturation—this union I shall call Ac—should, upon the addition of b, tend to unite with it to the exclusion of c, A is then said to attract b more strongly than c, or to have a stronger elective attraction for it; lastly, let the union Ab, on the addition of a, be broken, let b be rejected, and a chosen in its place, it will follow, that a exceeds b in attractive power, and we shall have a series: a, b, c, in respect to efficacy. What I here call attraction, others call denominate affinity; I shall employ both terms promiscuously, though the latter, being more metaphorical, would seem less proper in philosophy.”

In this manner, in namesake, the usage of alphabet letters to represent chemical species can be classified as “Bergman chemical symbol notation”, being that Bergman was the first to implement this revolutionary procedure that we see used so commonly as the language of modern-day chemistry. [1]

The transition from alchemical symbols to alphabetical symbols, however, was not immediate. This is evidenced by the fact that later systems of chemical nomenclature, e.g. that of Hassenfratz and Adet of 1787, continued to used non-alphabetical symbols for chemical substances. It was not, supposedly, until 1813 when Jacob Berzelius, the so-called “scientific grandson of Bergman”, i.e. Berzelius was a student of Peter Afzelius, who, in turn, was a student of Bergman, established alphabetical notation as the modern method. [2]
Human chemical symbol notation (c. 2003)
Early scratch paper notes (c.2003) on an attempt to systematize a basic set of human chemical symbol notations, in a manner not conflicting or overlapping with pre-established nomenclatures, made by American electrochemical engineer Libb Thims on the acknowledgements section of English evolutionary psychologist Matt Ridley's 1999 Genome: the Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters, the prototype book of the style of authorship Thims' originally began to conceptualize that he would write as (see: Thims history).

Human chemical symbol notation
See main: human molecular symbols
German polymath Johann Goethe, in the famous “chapter four” of his 1809 physical chemistry based novella Elective Affinities, was the first to employ Bergman chemical symbol notation to represent humans as generic chemicals. The central paragraph explaining this as follows:

‘Now then!’ Eduard interposed: ‘until we see all this with our own eyes, let us look on this formula as a metaphor from which we may extract a lesson we can apply immediately to ourselves. You, Charlotte, represent the A, and I represent your B; for in fact I do depend altogether on you and follow you as A follows B. The C is quite obviously the Captain, who for the moment is to some extent drawing me away from you. Now it is only fair that, if you are not to vanish into the limitless air, you must be provided with a D, and this D is unquestionably the charming little lady Ottilie, whose approaching presence you may no longer resist.’

In 1918, in commentary on American physical science humanities historian Henry Adams’ 1910 A Letter to American Teachers of History, wherein Adam notably “calls for the aid of another Newton”, American historian William Thayer comments, in his presidential address to the American Historical Association, that:

“In reading Henry Adams’ astonishing tract, I can not help suspecting at times that he is making fun of us historians; for he proposes, as I think you would agree with me, something which is not only impossible for anyone to carry out but which he himself never even attempted to carry out. In all the nine volumes of his American History, is there a hint of the second law of thermodynamics? Can you discover the slightest trace of a common formula for history and physical chemistry?”

In his address, Thayer seems to be ambivalent in his review, but at one point concedes:

“The time may come when human affairs may be described no longer by words and sentences, but by a system of symbols or notation similar to those used in algebra or chemistry … then it may be possible, as Adams suggests, to invent a common formula for thermodynamics and history.”

In end comment to Adams premise, to note, Thayer goes into a discussion on other past conflicts between the use of science in the humanities, such as the use of Darwin's "survival of the fittest" by the Germans in WWII and distinction of races, morality, as well as overlaps with religion.

Later commentaries, investigations, and commentaries on this Goethe-Bergman style human chemical symbol letter notation usage were given by Jeremy Adler (1977), Alfred Steer (1990), and Karl Fink (1999).

Latter human chemical reaction theorists, to have employed their own symbols, independent to or rather unaware of the Goethean model precedent, include: Libb Thims (1995), Christopher Hirata (2000), David Hwang (2001), Don Jorge (2007), Surya Pati (2009), and Thomas Wallace (2009), among others (see: human chemical reaction theory) to represent humans, individually, in unions, or in social aggregates, as molecules, chemicals, or molecular complexes.

See also
Moral symbols

References
1. Bergman, Torbern. (1775). A Dissertation on Elective Attractions. London: Frank Cass & Co.
2. Schufle, J.A., Bergman, Torbern, and D’Elhuyar, Don J. (1985). Torbern Bergman: a Man before his Time (pg. 307). Coronado Press.
3. (a) Thayer, William, R. (1918). “Vagaries of Historians”, Presidential address prepared to be read before the American Historical Association, at Cleveland, Dec. 28 (Reprinted from the American Historical Review, January, 1919).
(b) Thayer, William R. (1921). “Vagaries of Historians”. Annual Report of the American Historical Association (pgs. 77-88, esp. pgs. 80-84). G.P.O.
(c) Adams, Henry. (1910). A Letter to American Teachers of History. (PDF). Washington.

External links
Human molecule symbol methodologies – IoHT, Chicago.


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