The Chemical Educator, Vol. 5, No. 4, S1430-4171(00)04404-5, 10.1007/s008970404a, © 2000 Springer-Verlag New York, Inc.
Techniques and Experiments for Organic Chemistry, 6th edition.By Addison Ault. University Science Books: Sausalito, CA, 1998. 600 pp. Hardcover $65.00, ISBN 0-935702-76-8
I found this book to be very informative, suitable both for taking into the laboratory to consult on immediate practical matters, and also for reading later to amplify the theoretical side. It contains scores of practical hints, tips, and pieces of information, which contribute to much time being saved in the laboratory.
The preliminary section on safety is useful but I feel would have been improved greatly if more stress were laid on the need to get medical attention, particularly with incidents involving chemicals in the eye or larger spillages on the skin. Section 3 (p 21), on cleaning up glassware, which should be compulsory reading for all students, reinforces the need to work in a clean, tidy, and methodical manner. The next section, on the collection and disposal of waste, is excellent, as students need to be made aware of the requirement to dispose of all waste materials in a safe fashion. I think also that the clear and concise paragraph on waste disposal, which comes at the end of each experiment in Part 2, is an excellent feature of the book.
Both the practical and theoretical aspects of basic laboratory techniques are described in detail, but in easy to understand language; I feel that this discussion of technique is the strongest section of the book. These pages contain very informative pieces on separation, filtration, recrystallization, and extraction, and everything that most people would wish to know about distillation can be found here.
In the section on determining physical properties, traditional methods of characterizing substances are dealt with at length and much of the information is presented in tabular and graphical form which makes for a clear understanding. I was looking forward to reading the pages on spectroscopic methods used in characterization, but unfortunately most of these pages were missing! Characterization using chemical methods, although obviously less used nowadays, is dealt with at length and is clearly presented.
Part 2 of the book contains a variety of experiments, most of which use standard glassware and equipment of the type found in most laboratories. Although split into three sections, the experimental part of the book lacks an overall contents page which makes reference more difficult than it might be. The layout is clear, but could be improved by listing all the necessary reagents with a brief risk assessment and outlining any safety features such as use of a fume hood at the beginning of each experiment. Also, I feel in the interest of completeness that a synthetic experimental procedure should conclude with the calculation of percent yield and the collection of any spectra, melting point data, etc. The appearance of the whole book would be improved with extra and more modern looking illustrations.
In summary, I found Techniques and Experiments for Organic Chemistry to be informative, but the techniques section is stronger than the experimental section.