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Jos Jaspers, Nadja Reissland and Muriel Egerton
Scherer's Dynamic Chemistry of Emotions
Behind the Galleria degli Uffizi in Florence, a much smaller museum, hardly visited by tourists, can be found. It is
devoted to the science of the same period of which the arts are so magnificently exhibited in the main museum. In the first room on the left a renaissance apothecary has been reconstructed. Next to the door hangs a table of chemical elements expressed in wonderful mysterious symbols indicating the affinities between different substances. If one deciphers the alchemical symbols, which were still in use at the time, one discovers that no distinctions are made between elements and compounds, or between organic and inorganic substances. Nor is it clear what the affinities exactly represent. Water appears to have more affinity for alcohol than for salt, presumably because the latter two substances are not equally soluble in water. On the other hand the affinities between chemical elements, which all happen to be metals, corresponds quite well with what is now called the electromotive series. Clearly the table makes some sense and it may even have had some practical value in iatrochemistry , but it does not provide us with any understanding of the chemical processes which take place when elements react with each other when combined. It is at best organized practical knowledge based on observation and experience, but still a far cry removed from the modern science of chemistry.