Vol. 4  Iss. 6
The Chemical Educator 
© 1999 Springer-Verlag New York, Inc. 

ISSN 1430-4171
S 1430-4171(99) 06345-8 

Book Review  

Advanced Inorganic Chemistry, Sixth Edition
by F. Albert Cotton, Geoffrey Wilkinson, Carlos A. Murillo, and Manfred Bochmann

 Reviewed by
George B. Kauffman
California State University, Fresno, Fresno, CA 93740-8034, U.S.A.

Advanced Inorganic Chemistry, Sixth Edition; F. Albert Cotton, Geoffrey Wilkinson, Carlos A. Murillo, and Manfred Bochmann. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.: New York, 1999. Figures, tables. xv + 1355 pp. 18.5 × 26.0 cm. $89.95, 58.50 pounds sterling. ISBN 0-471-19957-5.

In the Spring of 1952 a 21-year-old student from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (A.B., Temple University, 1951) enrolled in a first-year graduate course in inorganic chemistry at Harvard University. The young (30-year-old) British assistant professor found it difficult, if not impossible, to find a satisfactory textbook for his course. Among recently published books Nevil Vincent Sidgwick's massive, two-volume The Chemical Elements and Their Compounds (Oxford University Press: Oxford, 1950; 1628 pp), although a gold mine of information, was hardly appealing as a text. The only available option was Harry Julius Emeléus and J. S. Anderson's Modern Aspects of Inorganic Chemistry (Van Nostrand: Princeton, NJ, 1938 and 1952), which was not really a text but rather a collection of reviews of interesting new areas. Early in 1952 Therald Moeller's Inorganic Chemistry: An Advanced Textbook (Wiley: New York) appeared, but although its treatment of general principles and the descriptive chemistry of the main group elements were adequate, only about 7% (ca. 65 of 910 pages) were devoted to the transition elements.

Therefore the professor and the student, who had already chosen him as his Ph.D. mentor, decided that as soon as they were in a position to do so, they would write a balanced textbook of inorganic chemistry for senior and first-year graduate students at American universities—a decision that would profoundly affect the teaching of inorganic chemistry for an entire generation of students. The professor's name? Geoff (later Sir Geoffrey) Wilkinson, the late 1973 Nobel chemistry laureate and Sir Edward Frankland Professor of Chemistry at London's Imperial College of Science, Technology, and Medicine. The student's name? Al Cotton, later W. T. Doherty–Welch Foundation Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and Director of the Laboratory for Molecular Structure and Bonding at Texas A&M University as well as recipient of numerous prestigious awards, including the Priestley Medal (1998), the American Chemical Society's highest award. And the rest, as they say, is history.

The book was written, as were all later editions, with the authors an ocean apart. Yet, although each possessed different approaches to his own research, the two authors had a spontaneous harmony in their writing. Also, because each edited what the other had written, there was little, if any, variation in style from one chapter to another. An entire decade was to elapse before Advanced Inorganic Chemistry: A Comprehensive Text (Wiley: 1962, 925 pp) was to appear. The book was the first inorganic text, at any level, to present an introduction to ligand field theory (LFT), which by that time had become very prominent in the research literature and hence should have been discussed in inorganic chemistry courses. It was a systematically organized work dealing with all the elements from hydrogen to the actinides, with a reasonable allotment of space to each. The concepts of LFT were not only expounded but also brought to bear on the magnetic and spectroscopic properties of each of the transition elements as its chemistry was discussed. Other innovations included tables of oxidation states and stereochemistries of each metallic element, with examples of each and with a strong emphasis on structural chemistry in general. These, and other methods of treating the subject that were new at the time, have continued to shape the coverage in all subsequent editions.

F.A.Cotton and G.Wilkinson at a meeting in Ettal, Germany in 1974.

Cotton and Wilkinson's text has evolved during the more than three and a half decades since its inception, while the authors learned more about the field as it underwent a veritable renaissance. The first edition contained a good deal of bonding theory, notably LFT, that has since been deleted because it is now discussed in lower level courses. It gave only a few references to the secondary literature such as reviews and monographs. Because of the rapid growth of the subject, references to the primary literature were first introduced in the second edition (1966), and this practice has continued to the present. The second through sixth editions contain a total of about 13,000 references, including about 4100 in the sixth. With the third edition (1972) the authors adopted a policy of presenting new references only for new material, a policy that they have continued. (With the exception of three earlier references in tables or figures, the references in the sixth edition range from 1987 to 1998). Thus, through the years, the various editions of this phenomenally successful and popular text present an extensive historical record of when and where new facts and new ideas were first reported.

After the appearance of the second edition, the book firmly established itself as the standard text for advanced inorganic courses. Although the second, third, and fourth (1980) editions were translated into seven, four, and four foreign languages, respectively, the first and fifth (1988) editions were never translated, probably because of the emerging dominance of English as the lingua franca of science beginning in the 1960s.

The first edition was a true textbook, admirably suited for teaching. To accommodate new descriptive material, however, the authors had to eliminate more and more theoretical background to the point where only a minimum is present in the sixth edition, which is as much a reference book as a textbook. Cotton and Wilkinson were forced to make this change in character in order to adhere to a double goal to which they were irrevocably committed—to make each edition a book that would prepare the reader to understand the contemporaneous research literature and to keep it within one volume, albeit a hefty one. By the time that the fifth edition appeared, the book had become so thick and hefty that Al Cotton joked that for $2 extra it would be available in a special binding with wheels and a pull-strap like airline luggage!

The sixth edition involves significant changes. Because of the ever-accelerating rate of the growth of the inorganic research literature, Cotton and Wilkinson found the writing of the fourth (1980) and fifth (1988) editions to be more and more laborious. As they began to plan the latest edition during 1993 or 1994, they decided to include two additional co-authors, both former students, to reduce their burden of research and composition. Cotton chose Carlos Murillo, Professor of Chemistry at the University of Costa Rica and Adjunct Professor of Chemistry at Texas A&M University, and Wilkinson chose Manfred Bochmann, Professor of Chemistry at the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom. They divided the responsibilities for the first draft into four approximately equal portions. Fortunately, Sir Geoffrey was able to finish written drafts of all his chapters only days before his unexpected death of cardiac arrest on September 26, 1996 at the age of 75 years.

Cotton and Wilkinson also decided to ask Russell N. Grimes, Professor of Chemistry at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, to revise the chapter on boron, which has been almost completely rewritten and rearranged. In Cotton's words, "This vast and idiosyncratic subject had always been a bête noire to both of us, and we had passed it back and forth between us from one edition to the next like a hot potato."

Because this text is well known to chemical educators and research chemists alike, I shall concern myself here primarily with the differences between the fifth and sixth editions. Like its predecessors, this latest edition is organized according to the periodic table of the elements. The fifth edition employed the older Roman numeral group numbers with the newer Arabic numeral group numbers in parentheses, but the new edition uses the latter designations exclusively. The authors have eliminated several of the broad topical chapters previously included, e.g., "Bioinorganic Chemistry" or "Organometallic Chemistry," and have enlarged coverage of the individual elements or groups by dealing with this chemistry on an element-by-element basis. However, this change does not necessarily correspond to a reduction in space devoted to important topics, e.g., more rather than less space is now allotted to the biochemistry of iron. In arrangement of material, the latest edition is more like the third edition than the fourth or fifth editions, but the amount of material is much greater. Although a few of the chapters remain relatively unchanged, in general the text shows evidence of judicious rearrangement and careful rewriting of chapters and of material within sections.

Part 1, "Survey of Principles," the shortest part (45 pp), has been condensed from two chapters ("Concepts in Stereochemistry and Bonding" and "Introduction to Ligands and Complexes," 81 pp) to one, "Some Cross-Cutting Topics," that are best treated generically, such as the new sections on relativistic effects, Zintl compounds, chemical vapor deposition, and inorganic materials. Part 2, "The Chemistry of the Main Group Elements" (579 pp), has been increased slightly from 534 pp. Part 3, "The Chemistry of the Transition Elements," the longest part, has been increased by 35% from 393 to 532 pages.

Part 4, "The Role of Organometallic Chemistry in Catalysis" (128 pp), now consists of two chapters, "Fundamental Reaction Steps of Transition Metal Catalyzed Reactions" (62 pp) and "Homogeneous Catalysis by Transition Metal Complexes" (66 pp). It replaces the much longer earlier part, "Survey of Selected Areas" (366 pp), which consisted of nine chapters: "Transition Metal Carbon Monoxide Compounds" (31 pp), "Metal-to-Metal Bonds and Metal Atom Clusters" (45 pp), "Transition Metal Compounds with Bonds to Hydrogen" (25 pp), "Compounds with Transition Metal Single, Double, and Triple Bonds to Carbon" (30 pp), "Compounds of Transition Metals Alkenes, Alkynes, and Delocalized Hydrocarbon Systems" (34 pp), "Oxidative-Addition and Migration (Insertion) Reactions" (38 pp), "Homogeneous Catalytic Synthesis of Organic Chemicals by Transition Metal Complexes" (59 pp), "Reaction Mechanisms of Transition Metal Complexes" (52 pp), and "Bioinorganic Chemistry" (42 pp).

Most of the corresponding chapters in the two editions are of similar length. Notable exceptions are the chapters on "Carbon" (50 pp vs. 31 pp in the fifth edition), "The Group 14 Elements" (51 pp vs. 40 pp), "Survey of Transition Elements" (59 pp vs. 24 pp), "The Elements of the First Transition Series" (185 pp vs 127 pp), and "The Elements of the Second and Third Transition Series," the longest chapter in both editions (231 pp vs 179 pp). New separate sections are devoted to fullerenes, nitrogen fluoride oxide, zinc enzymes, biological aspects of chromium chemistry, bioinorganic chemistry of iron, nickel in biological systems, organometallic nickel complexes, biochemistry of copper, low and very low formal oxidation states, organosilver compounds, subvalent silver compounds and silver clusters, gold clusters, and organogold compounds.

Once again, the book is liberally provided with numbered figures (329), tables (123), structural formulas (762), bottom-of-page references (3298, many cite several articles), and additional references at the end of chapters (144, some with annotations) as well as countless unnumbered equations. The five useful appendices (31 pp) remain unchanged except for the addition of a table of conversion factors. Considering the immense size and scope of the book, however, the index (29 double-column pages, reduced from 45 double-column pages in the fifth edition) seems inadequate. However, inasmuch as the book is arranged according to the periodic system, finding specific material is not difficult.

Again, the authors have spared no pains in revising what has been a balanced, comprehensive, up-to-date, and most successful text. Many of the figures and graphs have been redrawn, and the use of larger and darker type for section headings make this edition more legible and attractive than the previous one. Without allowing the size of the book to get out of hand (the sixth edition is 100 pages shorter than the fifth edition!), they have significantly increased the amount of factual material and still attained their goal of providing "the [senior or first-year graduate] student with the background necessary to comprehend current research literature in inorganic and certain aspects of organometallic chemistry." For this pedagogical triumph they deserve our profound thanks. And, furthermore, in view of the huge amount of well-organized and cutting-edge material in this text, its reasonable price makes it a "best buy."