MiS Preprint Repository

We have decided to discontinue the publication of preprints on our preprint server as of 1 March 2024. The publication culture within mathematics has changed so much due to the rise of repositories such as ArXiV ( that we are encouraging all institute members to make their preprints available there. An institute's repository in its previous form is, therefore, unnecessary. The preprints published to date will remain available here, but we will not add any new preprints here.

MiS Preprint

A formal setting for the evolution of chemical knowledge

Guillermo Restrepo and Jürgen Jost


Chemistry shapes and creates the disposition of the world's resources and exponentially provides new substances for the welfare and hazard of our civilisation. Over the history chemists -- driven by social, semiotic and material forces -- have shaped the discipline, while creating a colossal corpus of information and knowledge. Historians and sociologists, in turn, have devised causal narratives and hypotheses to explain major events in chemistry as well as its current status. In this Perspective we discuss the approaches to the evolution of the social, semiotic and material systems of chemistry. We critically analyse their reaches and challenge them by putting forward the need of a more holistic and formal setting to modelling the evolution of chemical knowledge. We indicate the advantages for chemistry of considering chemical knowledge as a complex dynamical system, which, besides casting light on the past and present of chemistry, allows for estimating its future, as well as the effects of hypothetical past events. We describe how this approach turns instrumental for forecasting the effects of material, semiotic and social perturbations upon chemical knowledge. Available data and the most relevant formalisms to analyse the different facets of chemical knowledge are discussed.

Jul 10, 2020
Jul 10, 2020
MSC Codes:
chemical knowledge, History of chemistry, modelling, complex dynamical systems

Related publications

2020 Repository Open Access
Guillermo Restrepo and Jürgen Jost

A formal setting for the evolution of chemical knowledge