Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Review of David Knight: Ideas in Chemistry

Knight’s book Ideas in Chemistry: A History of the Science is an interesting survey of the history of Chemistry. It is nice, informal, and very readable. The chapters are broken down in such a way that makes it look like the history of chemistry is a series of new developments, both in terms of chemistry’s discoveries, and also in terms of its methodological evolution. There is a discussion for example of chemistry as a teachable science, discussing the apprentice system, and another chapter on chemistry as a reduced science, addressing chemistry playing second-fiddle to physics. . .

This book does have some shortcomings. Specifically, one does not come away with a feel for the history of chemistry, but rather one leaves with just a taste for it. The book would be a great supplement to a class where there was a fuller story presented, and more coherence to the whole history.

But Knight's book is user friendly, and it is a good outline of the general history of the field from Alchemy to the present. I would recommend it as a quick overview, not a text.

1 comment:

30 something said...

Try "A Short History of Chemistry" by Isaac Asimov, Doubleday, 1965

(To be found in the C & L collection)