What’s in a name?

Welcome to “The Sceptical Chymist,” a new blog from the editors of Nature and the Research journals.

We hope that you will help us fill this blog with stimulating discussions of all things chemical… This isn’t the first blog at Nature: there’s also the “Nature Newsblog,” “Free Association” (a blog from the editors of Nature Genetics), and “Action Potential” (a blog from the editors of Nature Neuroscience). But this is our first blog in the chemical sciences and we hope that you’ll help us make it a successful one!

So, what will you find in this blog? Here’s a (partial) list of what we plan on discussing:

– Meetings we’re attending, including the upcoming 2006 Spring meeting of the American Chemical Society

– Chemistry and biochemistry papers published in Nature journals and elsewhere

– Chemistry and chemists in the news, including scientific and popular press coverage, important policy developments, new initiatives in chemistry, etc.

– Upcoming conferences, newly published books about chemistry, and interesting websites we’ve found

– And anything else you’d like to talk about…

Now if you made it this far, you’re probably wondering why we named our blog “The Sceptical Chymist.” Well, it all has to do with a book written in 1661 by Robert Boyle, who is best known for Boyle’s law, and for co-founding the Royal Society on November 28th, 1660.

In 1661, Boyle published “The Sceptical Chymist,” in which he “argued against Aristotle’s view of the four elements of earth, air, fire and water” and instead “argued that matter was composed of corpuscles which themselves were differently built up of different configurations of primary particles.”

Boyle criticized alchemists, calling them ”vulgar” and “inferior,“ and “appealed to chemists to experiment and … pleaded that chemistry cease being subservient to medicine or to alchemy, but rise to the status of a science.” Furthermore, he “advocated a rigorous approach to scientific experiment [and] believed all theories must be proved experimentally before being regarded as true.”

So it’s not surprising that Boyle has been called the “founder of modern chemistry” as well as the “father of chemistry.” We named this blog “The Sceptical Chymist” to pay homage to Boyle and the dramatic metamorphosis that took place after the publication of this book. By no means do we think that this blog will be a 21st century equivalent of this seminal text, but we hope that – like the original book – this blog will engage the chemical community, ask important questions, and make a positive impact on the field.

We will be adding entries regularly, so please check back frequently to see what we’re writing about… And please feel free to leave comments responding to this (and/or any other) entry – if you would like to contact us via email, please email us at thescepticalchymist at boston.nature.com

Chat with you soon!

Joshua Finkelstein (Associate Editor, Nature)

Terry Sheppard (Chief Editor, Nature Chemical Biology)

Stuart Cantrill (Associate Editor, Nature Nanotechnology)

Allison Doerr (Assistant Editor, Nature Methods)