Teaching Science through History
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Rekindling Phlogiston

by Douglas Allchin & Rick Swanson

tarnishingPhlogiston is often maligned as a failure in science, yet it was an important concept for almost a century in unifying (in modern terms) oxidation and reduction reactions, as well as organic and inorganic chemistry. In this module, it serves as the basis for an introduction to metals and to the reduction of ores, the calcination (oxidation) of metals -- and the relationship of these processes to combustion and photosynthesis. (The discovery of oxygen is addressed but it is secondary, here, to questions of energy, chemical transformation, and metallic properties, such as conductivity.)

The basic scenario allows for several simple student-led lab inquiries, some deomnstrations, and student interpretation and discussion.

Originally reported in Science & Education 6(1997): 473-509.

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