William Henry a
Opening section of English physician-chemist William Henry’s 1818 twelve-page chapter section Of Elective Affinity, a textbook overview of elective affinity. [12]
In chemistry, elective affinity, a variant of “affinity”, was a term used, especially in the 18th century, to define a tendency of a chemical species to “elect” to unit with one chemical entity in preference to that of another. [1] The modern variation is "chemical affinity".
In social psychology, elective affinity is defined as a force of mutual attraction involving the structure and contents of belief systems and the motives of their adherents and is argued to exist between epistemic motives to reduce uncertainty and political conservatism. [11]

In circa 1250, German philosopher Albertus Magnus introduced the term
affinitas, in the sense of chemical relation, to qualify the combinations of bodies. [2] Magnus use the term affinity, for instance, to define the cause of combination of sulfur with silver and other metals. Magnus employed phrases such as ‘sulphur destroys the metals because of its natural affinity to them’. [3] In his Book of the Marvels of the World, Magnus outlined four principles related to affinity. The first principle of affinity is that likes attract to likes, meaning that an attraction between things with similar qualities or virtues exists, stated in general terms, referring to the Aristotelian elements: earth, air, fire, and water. The second affinity principle is that all things have prime, or first, qualities, but can acquire second or third qualities by association. The third affinity principle is that qualities may be innate to a whole species or to individual things. The fourth affinity principle is antagonism where just as all things attract related things with like qualities, they also ‘repel’ things with opposite qualities. [4] Magnus’ affinity theories and works were frequently reprinted well into the 16th century.

In 1620, English scientific philosopher Francis Bacon developed theories on chemical affinity to explain the inherent nature of motion and its causes. Bacon reasoned that ‘dispute and friendship are the spurs to motion in nature, and the keys to her works.’ [5] Bacon defined chemical affinity as such: [6]

“It is certain that all bodies whatsoever, though they have no sense, yet they have perception; for when one body is applied to another, there is a kind of election to embrace that which is agreeable, and to exclude or expel that which is ingrate; and whether the body be alterant or altered, evermore perception precedeth operation; for else all bodies would be like one to another.”

This logic, naturally, evolved into a conception of elective attraction or elective affinity, defined as ‘a favorable inclination to one more than to another’ or a process in which ‘a substance tends to combine with certain substances in preference to others.’ [7]

In 1718, during a translation into French of a later edition of Newton’s Opticks, French physician and chemist Étienne Geoffroy made the world’s first affinity table, containing 16-columns and 9-rows of chemical species, titled Tableau des différentes Rapports Observées entre Différentes Substances (Table of the Different Relations Observed between Different Substances), using data from Query 31 of the Opticks. [8] Soon other chemist started expanding on Geoffroy’s table by adding more species.

In 1775, Swedish chemist Torbern Bergman, in his A Dissertation on Elective Attractions, published a large fold-out affinity table, containing 55-rows and 50-columns of chemical species. [9]

In 1785 to 1795, German polyintellect
Johann von Goethe began to absorb the affinity reaction theory logic of Bergman; with which he used in the theoretical development and writing of his scientific novella Elective Affinities (1809), the world’s first scientific treatise on the origin of love and the founding book of human chemistry. [10]

See also
Elective Affinities (novella)
Elective Affinities (1933 painting)
Elective Affinities (1996 film)

1. (a) Kim, Mi Gyung. (2003). Affinity, That Elusive Dream – A Genealogy of the Chemical Revolution. Cambridge, Mass: The MIT Press.
(b) Thims, Libb. (2007). Human Chemistry (Volume Two), (ch. 10: “Goethe’s Affinities”, pgs. 371-422, ch. 12: Affinity and Free Energy”, pgs. 423-68). (preview), (Google books). Morrisville, NC: LuLu.
2. Partington, J.R. (1937). A Short History of Chemistry, (pg. 322). New York: Dover (reprint).
3. Rodwell, G. F. (1874). Birth of Chemistry. (pg. 86) MacMillan.
4. Best, Michael R. and Brightman, Frank, H. (2000). The Book of Secrets of Albertus Magnus: Of the Virtue of Herbs, Stones, and Certain Beasts, Also a Book of the Marvels of the World. Weiser Books.
5. Bacon, F. (1838). Works, vol. 2. 1, p. 559. London: Ball.
6. Levere, T. (1993). Affinity and Matter – Elements of Chemical Philosophy [1800-1865]. New York: Taylor & Francis.
7. (a) Elective attraction (chemistry); Random House Unabridged Dictionary, 2006.
(b) Elective (elective affinity); Merriam Webster, Incorporated, 2000.
8. Geoffroy, Étienne F. (1718). Tableau des différentes Rapports Observées entre Différentes Substances (Table of the Different Relations Observed between Different Substances). France.
9. Bergman, Torbern. (1775). A Dissertation on Elective Attractions. London: Frank Cass & Co.
10. (a) Goethe, Johann. (1809). Elective Affinities. New York: Penguin Classics.
(b) Fairburn, William Armstrong. (1914). Human Chemistry. The Nation Valley Press, Inc.
(c) Thims, Libb. (2007). Human Chemistry (Volume One), (preview), (Google books). Morrisville, NC: LuLu.
11. Jost, John T., Federico, Christopher M., and Napier, Jaime L. (2009). “Political Ideology: Its Structure, Function, and Elective Affinities.” The Annual Review of Psychology, 60: 307-37.
12. Henry, William. (1818). The Elements of Experimental Chemistry (section IV: Of Elective Affinity, pgs. 38-50). Joy.

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