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Robert J. Malone
Executive Director, History of Science Society

William Newman
IU Department of History and Philosophy of Science

Last modified: Monday, November 14, 2005

IU professor wins prestigious book award

Nov. 14, 2005

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- William R. Newman, professor of the history and philosophy of science at Indiana University, has received the History of Science Society's Pfizer Prize for an outstanding scholarly publication. His award-winning book, Alchemy Tried in the Fire: Starkey, Boyle and the Fate of Helmontian Chymistry, published by the University of Chicago Press (2002), was co-written with Lawrence M. Principe, professor of the history of science, medicine and technology and of chemistry at Johns Hopkins University.

William Newman

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In this work, Newman and Principe argue that historians of chemistry should look to the alchemist George Starkey -- who has been described as America's most prominent natural philosopher prior to Benjamin Franklin -- rather than Robert Boyle, for the origins of modern chemistry.

The book is a model for the further extension of laboratory studies in history of science, and at the same time sets an example of how much we still can learn about science from close study of historical sources. Based on extraordinary research in difficult primary sources, brilliantly analyzed and gracefully written, Alchemy Tried in the Fire is a landmark of contemporary scholarship in the history of science.

The Pfizer Prize was established in 1958 through the generosity of Pfizer Inc. The award consists of a medal and $2,500.

In a typical year, over 60 books are considered for the Prize. Prize-winning books are chosen for their unsurpassed research and their breadth of learning. The History of Science Society, custodian of the prize, is the world's largest and oldest society devoted to the study of the history of science. A complete list of past winners is available online at