Calibrating Chromatography: How Tswett Broke the Experimenters’ Regress

Jonathan Livengood, Adam Edwards

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We propose a new account of calibration according to which calibrating a technique shows that the technique does what it is supposed to do. To motivate our account, we examine an early twentieth-century debate about chlorophyll chemistry and Mikhail Tswett’s use of chromatographic adsorption analysis to study it. We argue that Tswett’s experiments established that his technique was reliable in the special case of chlorophyll without relying on either a theory or a standard calibration experiment. We suggest that Tswett broke the experimenters’ regress by appealing to material facts in the common ground for chemists at the time.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)685-710
Number of pages26
JournalBritish Journal for the Philosophy of Science
Issue number3
Early online dateAug 5 2022
StatePublished - Sep 1 2022


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