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Oxygen by Carl Djerassi
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Oxygen

by Carl Djerassi

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A play about the discovery of oxygen - or more accurately, about the battle for priority in the discovery of oxygen. Alternating between 1777 and 2001 Sweden, the characters attempt to determine which of three great men discovered the crucial gas first. Also, does it matter which one understood what they had discovered first? Scheele and Priestly continued to put their discoveries into the framerwork of phlogistan, while Lavoisier correctly dispensed with phlogistan and preferred the name Oxygen - which is the name we now use. The question, then - should the other two step aside in priority because Lavoisier knew what he'd found, and the other two didn't? And what role did Mme. Lavoisier play in it all? The play is written two actual chemists, so the science is accurately presented, but the play primarily focuses on the personalities and the discovery without getting bogged down in chemistry minutiae. An entertaining work, and it has the guts to take on the all too popular modern idea that if a scientist is ambitious, or less than godlike in his personal qualities, it somehow renders his science suspect. I just think it might have been a bit better if they'd dispensed with the 2001 plot line, and focused solely on the 1777 meeting. ( )
1 vote Devil_llama | Oct 5, 2013 |
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