The Chemical Educator, Vol. 5, No. 6, S1430-4171(00)06435-5, 10.1007/s00897000435a, © 2000 Springer-Verlag New York, Inc.
General Chemistry with Qualitative Analysis, 6th edition. By Kenneth W. Whitten, Raymond E. Davis, and M. Larry Peck, Saunders College Publishing. ISBN 0030212170, (September 1999), £25.95. Available through Harcourt International.
General Chemistry with Qualitative Analysis is a colorful textbook with the high degree of readability that is important for maintaining the undergraduate student’s interest. The textbook is designed for students in a first-year (freshman) introductory chemistry course.
As one might expect, the presentation has features in common with a number of other Introductory Chemistry textbooks. Many of the images in General Chemistry can be found in a similar format in other texts. However, the treatment of topics does not always mirror that found elsewhere. For example, the authors have chosen to combine some topics, such as enthalpy, entropy, and Gibbs free energy, into one chapter on “Chemical Thermodynamics,” although this subject is given two or more chapters in other books.
Molecular orbital theory is covered in a separate chapter that allows instructors the option of teaching it in an introductory course. Some instructors will argue (perhaps correctly) that this theory may be more appropriate in an upper-level chemistry course. A certain level of entertainment is also achieved in “Chemistry in Use” boxes as well as in the margin notes. Some of this information may appear trivial, but these boxes do illustrate interesting chemical properties and provide historical information without distracting the reader.
In its sixth edition, this textbook has a polished look, with few typos. A useful table of constants is easily located on the back cover. An additional table indicating the location of commonly used information is also positioned on the back cover, but it does not really enhance the well-organized index and seems to be repetitive.
One feature that is unique among introductory chemistry textbooks is the section devoted to qualitative analysis. This is ideal for science students as an introduction to more advanced chemistry courses such as analytical or inorganic chemistry courses. Although presented as a separate section, the eight chapters of qualitative analysis comprise less than 100 pages, so the emphasis on qualitative analysis is not as great as the book’s title might suggest.
Perhaps the strength of this textbook is the problem-solving approach it uses to illustrate basic chemistry to the first-year student. This is particularly useful for illustrating concepts such as Lewis structures, equilibrium, kinetics, and thermodynamics, to name only a few. The solved problems within each chapter are clear and will be useful to the student. There are also “problem-solving tip” boxes within each chapter. Students will find these highlighted tips to be quite helpful (e.g., “When Do We Round” on p 62, and “Solving Quadratic Equations” on p 720).
Both students and instructors will welcome the large selection of sample problems provided at the end of each chapter. A good selection of problems is essential for instructors and students because one of the best ways to teach and learn introductory chemistry is through a problem-solving model. Though not a serious criticism, answers are provided for only selected even-numbered problems. Students should therefore purchase the study guide to fully benefit from the problems at the end of each chapter.
Of interest to students is the stereo artwork (and stereoglasses) provided with the textbook. Students who may have difficulty visualizing molecular shapes will find this tool quite useful. It should be noted that most chapters do not take advantage of this tool, so it may not seem worthwhile if you are not teaching coordination compounds (Chapter 25) and biopolymers (Chapter 28) in an introductory course.
A nice addition is the Saunders Interactive Software. Although the software repeats much of the written material in the textbook, additional images and the short movies will enhance the first-year student’s view of chemistry (e.g., standing waves). It should be noted that software will work best on newer computers; students with older machines may have trouble. Of course, having a Website and software associated with the textbook can only help the student, and if present trends continue, the personal computer will play an ever-increasing role in education.
Overall, this is an excellent book for teaching introductory chemistry; it deals with all of the essential topics in depth, and devotes sufficient space to problem solving.