It will no doubt be a matter of surprise that in a treatise upon the elements

It will no doubt be a matter of surprise that in a

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It will, no doubt, be a matter of surprise, that in a treatise upon the elements of chemistry, there should be no chapter on the constituent and elementary parts of matter; but I shall take occasion, in this place, to remark, that the fondness for reducing all the bodies in nature to three or four elements, proceeds from a prejudice which has descended to us from the Greek Philosophers. The notion of four elements, which, by the variety of their proportions, compose all the known substances in nature, is a mere hypothesis, assumed long before the first principles of experimental philosophy or of chemistry had any existence. In those days, without possessing facts, they framed systems; while we, who have collected facts, seem determined to reject them, when they do not agree with our prejudices. The authority of these fathers of human philosophy still carry great weight, and there is reason to fear that it will even bear hard upon generations yet to come. It is very remarkable, that, notwithstanding of the number of philosophical chemists who have supported the doctrine of the four elements, there is not one who has not been led [Pg xx] [Pg xxi] [Pg xxii] [Pg xxiii]
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