jul 15, 1667 - Phlogiston theory - Johann Becher


The phlogiston theory is a superseded scientific theory that postulated that a fire-like element called phlogiston is contained within combustible bodies and released during combustion. The name comes from the Ancient Greek φλογιστόν phlogistón (burning up), from φλόξ phlóx (flame). It was first stated in 1667 by Johann Joachim Becher, and then put together more formally by Georg Ernst Stahl. The theory attempted to explain processes such as combustion and rusting, which are now collectively known as oxidation.

Phlogiston theory states that phlogisticated substances are substances that contain phlogiston and dephlogisticate when burned. Dephlogisticating is when the substance releases the phlogiston inside it and that phlogiston is absorbed by the air. Growing plants then absorb this phlogiston, which is why air does not spontaneously combust and also why plant matter burns as well as it does.

Thus phlogiston accounted for combustion via a process that was opposite to that of the oxygen theory.

In general, substances that burned in air were said to be rich in phlogiston; the fact that combustion soon ceased in an enclosed space was taken as clear-cut evidence that air had the capacity to absorb only a finite amount of phlogiston. When air had become completely phlogisticated it would no longer serve to support combustion of any material, nor would a metal heated in it yield a calx; nor could phlogisticated air support life. Breathing was thought to take phlogiston out of the body.[1]

Joseph Black's student Daniel Rutherford discovered nitrogen in 1772 and the pair used the theory to explain his results. The residue of air left after burning, in fact a mixture of nitrogen and carbon dioxide, was sometimes referred to as phlogisticated air, having taken up all of the phlogiston. Conversely, when oxygen was discovered, it was thought to be dephlogisticated air, capable of combining with more phlogiston and thus supporting combustion for longer than ordinary air.[2]

Added to timeline:

5 months ago
Bartram Barton


jul 15, 1667
~ 351 years ago
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