Past Event

Reut Ullman - Chymistry in Pre-Petrine Russia: Practitioners, Technologies, and Spaces

March 15, 2024
12:00 PM - 1:00 PM
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Event Description

This chapter narrates the history of chemical practices, technologies, texts, and practitioners in sixteenth and seventeenth centuries Muscovite Rus’. Scholarship on the topic often referred to as “pre-Petrine chemistry” is not exhaustive and not especially descriptive. Scholars such as Rainov, Luk’ianov, and Figurovskii have each given us glimpses of a lively and diverse practical chemical culture, but little by way of concrete detail. This, however, is only true for scholarship that has sought to give a broad overview of the state of early modern Russian chemistry as a learned and practical science. Scholarship that focuses on the subspecialties of early modern chemical practices, such as mining, metalwork, medicine, and commercial chemistry (manufacture of paints and dyes, distillation of spirits, etc.) is descriptively richer. Unfortunately, thus far, this scholarship has been primarily oriented towards Russianists, and seldom entered into a dialogue with historians of science. Moreover, because most of these works have dealt with the practical and commercial side of chemistry, they have not been positioned or considered as treating “chemistry proper.” This chapter follows in the tradition of Soviet scholarship by narrating a broad overview of chemical practices in sixteenth and seventeenth centuries Russia and distinguishes itself by focusing on chemical processes rather than chemical industries, and includes a treatment of texts, practitioners, and sites neglected by previous scholars. Ultimately, this chapter seeks to provide a fuller context against which to identify and weigh the impact of Petrine policies on chemical practices in the Westernized Russia of the eighteenth century.

Event Speaker

Reut Ullman, graduate student in History

Event Information

Open to Columbia University ID holders. Please email Stephanie Reitzig at [email protected] for the Zoom link and reading. 

Hosted by the Science Studies Working Group.