ChemistryWestern Science

Mel Usselman

Mel Usselman

In Memorium

Professor Emeritus

Story

Research Areas

History of Chemistry

Education

B.Sc., M.A., UWO.; Ph.D., UWO.


Awards

Research

The core of my research program is an extensive and detailed study of the chemistry and scientific career of William Hyde Wollaston (1766-1828), culminating in a full scientific biography, which would be the first such work. Working from copies of Wollaston’s laboratory records and other contemporary documents, I have expanded my studies to include investigation of the interaction of science with technology, pure versus applied chemistry, late 18th-century medical practices and chemical entrepreneurship.

A central component of my research methodology is the experimental reconstruction of historic chemical discoveries. This technique has generated novel insights into Wollaston’s method for producing malleable platinum, Chenevix’s experiment’s on "artificial" palladium, the contributions of Dalton, Thomson, Wollaston, Berthollet and Bérard to the law of multiple combining proportions, and most recently, Liebig’s "kaliapparat" for the combustion analysis of organic compounds . The comparison of experimentally-obtained and published data has initiated a recent investigation of scientific creativity, and an analysis of the difference between scientific induction and self-deception.

Publications