Archive for January, 2008

Wilhelm Ostwald and De Stijl

In the first volume of the journal De Stijl a review on Ostwald’s colour theory was published. Two years later De Stijl published Ostwalds paper on the “Harmony of colors”, whose German edition had been published in the journal “Innendekoration”.

De Stijl  Vol. 1, no. 10, p. 113

De Stijl. Edited by Theo van Doesburg. Leiden, 1917-1932. 8 volumes (90 numbers).

  • Wilhelm Ostwald, ‘Die Harmonie der Farben’, De Stijl 3 (1920) 7, 60-62

Wilhelm Ostwald

Wilhelm Ostwald, 1853 (Riga, Latvia) – 1932 (Leipzig, Germany) was one of the founders and the organizer of the discipline ‘physical chemistry’ at the end of the 19th century. He worked from 1887 until 1906 as professor in Leipzig, received the 1909 Nobel Prize in chemistry for his work on catalysis, equilibria and rates of chemical reactions.

Especially after his retirement he developed broad and multifaceted interests as well as wrote numerous publications in philosophy (of nature), history (of science) as well as color theory and the international organization of scholarly work e.g. through promoting an artificial language.

Wilhelm Ostwald

An actual biography: Kim, Mi Gyung (2006). Wilhelm Ostwald (1853-1932). in: HYLE – International Journal for Philosophy of Chemistry 12 (2006) 1, S. 141-148.

Combinatorics and creativity by Wilhelm Ostwald

“Combinatorics doesn’t replace productive imagination only, but is superior to it!”

So creativity included for Ostwald not only “productive imagination” but also “combinatorics”. From his view ideas and discoveries are often only “a novel combination of existing components”. Newly-discovered facts in scientific research also has to be combined with diverse existing facts to create new insights. His idea on creativity corresponds with modern views concerning an alternative exposure to copyright and intellectual property within the “Creative Commons” licences: “Share, reuse, and remix – legal” (

Combinatorics Crossword

Wilhelm Ostwald (1929). Combinatorics and productive imagination (Kombinatorik und schaffende Phantasie. In: Forschen und Nutzen: Wilhelm Ostwald zur wissenschaftlichen Arbeit (pp. 28-30). Berlin: Akademie-Verlag, 1978.