The alchemy of early modern glass: Philosophy, modern science and the market at Oxford’s Officina Chimica
Historians of science increasingly emphasise the importance of early materials and experiments in shaping scientific theories and use artefacts as sources of information. In particular, archaeological science analyses are allowing unprecedented insight into experiments and underlying ideas, opening up radically new approaches that challenge the tired myths about alchemy, chemistry and industry as isolated fields. My projects will investigate the links between the alchemical production of glass and the philosophical and economic spheres in early modern Britain. I will carry on my research using a cross-disciplinary approach that will merge archaeological science techniques of investigation with historical perspectives and methods. The main case study will be the range of experiments carried on in the 17th century Oxford’s Officina Chimica, currently the first al/chemical laboratory within a university context. A second case study will be the remains from Jamestown, Virginia, the first British colony in the New World and arguably the birthplace of modern America. Through the chemical analysis of this materials and the study of written sources it is expected that the blurring boundaries between craft and science will be exposed, and that glass will be given the place it deserves in the history of science.