This volume collects the contributions to the workshop 'William Ostwald at the Crossroads of Chemistry, Philosophy, and Media Culture' which was held at Leipzig in November 2004. As reflected by the title, the organizers' intention was to obtain a 'global' picture of Ostwald's manifold intellectual activities. Ostwald, winner of the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1909, was teaching at the physico-chemical institute at the University of Leipzig around the turn of the 19th to 20th century. He was interested in a broad spectrum of sciences, from natural philosophy to his idea of 'energetics'.
All the contributions in this volume, regardless of how different their starting-point, their methodologies and theoretical or national perspectives are, reveal something about the way Ostwald, in his many realms of endeavor, was engaged in some form of a theoretical reflection upon science. For instance, the paper of Danuta Sobczynska and Eva Czerwinska provides an overview over Ostwald's activities in the German Monistic League, while the contribution by Nikos Psarros illustrates how it became possible for Ostwald to frame a definition of a chemical 'species' within an anti-atomist framework. Meanwhile, Matthias Neuber shows that even those authors who share some basic assumptions in the philosophy of science do not actually present a unified research group; they are, at best, 'uneasy allies'. Even for Ostwald himself, it was possible to be, as Britta Görs shows, at once an anti-atomist in theory and an atomist in hands-on chemical practice. Ostwald worked on many different levels to develop and promote a new vision of science, as the papers of Rein Vihalemm, Yoshiyuki Kikuchi, Bernadette Bensaude-Vincent, Anne-Claire Déŕe and Thomas Hapke as well as Paul Ziche illustrate.
The great variety of issues that Ostwald addressed makes him a paradigm case for any approach that attempts to understand the position of science around 1900, and also for a perspective that seeks to place science within a broader context. Each contribution in this volume pursues its own particular question. But multiple cross-references and the mutual elucidation of historical, philosophical, scientific or national problems can hopefully contribute to a better understanding of Ostwald, of the role of science around 1900, and also perhaps of some aspects of the manner in which science attempts to understand itself.
This volume collects the contributions to the workshop 'William Ostwald at the Crossroads of Chemistry, Philosophy, and Media Culture' which was held at Leipzig in November 2004. As reflected by the