The Chemical Educator, Vol. 5, No. 2, S1430-4171(00)02375-6, 10.1007/s00897990375a, © 2000 Springer-Verlag NewYork, Inc.
Polymer Chemistry: An Introduction, 3rd edition. By Malcolm P. Stevens. Oxford University Press: New York, Oxford. Figures, tables, charts. xix + 551 pp. 17.0 × 24.2 cm. $70.00. ISBN 0-19-512444-8.
Reviewed by: George B. Kauffman, California State University, Fresno, email@example.com
Polymer chemistry is an interdisciplinary science, drawing on organic, inorganic, physical, and analytical chemistry as well as biochemistry and making occasional incursions into physics, engineering, and even business economics. According to the late polymer chemist Carl Shipp ("Speed") Marvel, "Polymer chemistry has become such an important part of chemical technology, and polymers have come to play such a role in everyday living, that no chemist can consider himself adequately trained in his science without some introduction to this field." Indeed, most chemists and chemical engineers are concerned with some aspect of polymer science and technology. A 1985 U.S. Department of Labor study reported that almost 60% of the chemical industry work force was involved with synthetic polymers, and the Divisions of Polymer Chemistry; Polymer Materials; Rubber; and Cellulose, Paper, and Textile Chemistry are some of the American Chemical Society's largest in terms of membership. Because of these facts, my colleague and frequent coauthor, the late polymer chemist Raymond B. Seymour (19121991), often referred to our time as the polymer age.
Yet, when the first edition of this popular introductory text for an undergraduate or beginning graduate level polymer chemistry course was published by Addison-Wesley in 1975, polymers were among the most neglected topics in both the undergraduate and graduate curriculum, and only a few chemistry departments offered an elective course in the subject. However, since then, the ACS Committee on Professional Training has included polymer chemistry among the elective courses that undergraduate students should be "strongly encouraged" to take, and a "Recommended ACS Syllabus for Introductory Courses in Polymer Chemistry" outlined topics to be included and listed textbooks and audio courses available, including the first edition of Stevens' book (Seymour, R. B. J. Chem. Educ. 1982, 59, 652653). A second edition was published by Oxford University Press in 1990.
Malcolm P. Stevens, Professor of Chemistry at the University of Hartford, where he has taught since 1971, previously taught at Robert College in Istanbul and at the American University of Beirut and also worked at the Chevron Research Company. His combination of academic and industrial experience is reflected in the excellent coverage of both the theoretical fundamentals and the practical applications of the subject in the third edition of the book under review here. He assumes that students using the book have completed undergraduate courses in organic and physical chemistry and are familiar with the more commonly used spectroscopic and chromatographic methods of analysis and characterization.
This latest edition follows the organization of the second edition, with the exception that heterocyclic polymers are dealt with in a separate single chapter (Chapter 15) rather than being divided between two chapters. Also, microbial polyesters are discussed in Chapter 12 rather than in Chapter 18. Like Gaul, the book is divided into three parts. The wide scope of the topics included can be glimpsed from the titles of the chapters:
Among the new developments in a rapidly changing field featured are: "single site" metallocene catalysts for tailoring polyolefin structures, living free-radical polymerization, biodegradable bacterial polyesters, mass spectrometric methods for molecular weight determination, atomic force microscopy for characterizing polymer surfaces, soft ionization techniques coupled with time-of-flight mass spectrometers for measuring molecular weights and molecular weight distributions, supramolecular assemblies such as polyrotaxanes, dendritic and hyperbranched polymers with molecular dimensions in the nanometer range, polymer recycling, characterization and testing methods, stereoregular polymers, commercially important addition and condensation polymers, and polymers exhibiting nonlinear optical properties.
Once again, references (1203 in all, some as late as 1997) at the end of each chapter are based in many cases on review articles or monographs so that students can find more detailed information on any given topic (original articles can be located from the review articles). Because Stevens believes that advanced undergraduate or beginning graduate students should be strongly encouraged to read the original literature, he has included references in many of the 253 end-of-chapter review exercises (a solutions manual is available).
The book is replete with 852 numbered and countless unnumbered structural formulas, chemical and mathematical equations, reaction schemes, 94 figures, and 73 tables. It includes a 2-page appendix of commonly used polymer abbreviations, a 9-page appendix of the polymer literature (handily divided into encyclopedias and yearbooks, handbooks, continuing series, journals, general journals, and specialty journals), and a 9-page appendix of sources of polymer chemistry laboratory experiments (divided into laboratory manuals, supplementary sources, and 167 articles published in the Journal of Chemical Education between 1950 and 1997). The last appendix is particularly useful for instructors who wish to design a polymer laboratory course or integrate polymers into existing laboratory courses. A detailed index (17 double-column pages) facilitates locating material.
The only current textbook that discusses polymer types according to functional groups, Polymer Chemistry: An Introduction is not only a useful, comprehensive, up-to-date, and eminently teachable text for advanced undergraduate and beginning graduate students; it is also suitable as an introduction for industrial chemists with no prior training in the subject or as a reference sourcebook for practicing polymer scientists.