The Chemical Educator, Vol. 8, No.5, Media Reviews, © 2003 The Chemical Educator
From Alchemy to Atomic Bombs: History of Chemistry, Metallurgy, and Civilization. By Fathi Habashi. Métallurgie Extractive Québec: 800 rue Alain #504, Sainte Foy, Québec, Canada G1X 4E7, 2002; distributed by Laval University Bookstore “Zone”: Cité Universitaire, Sainte Foy, Québec, Canada G1K 7P4; email: email@example.com. Illustrations, viii + 357 pp.; 15.6 ´ 23.2 cm. Can.$70.00, U.S.$50.00 plus postage (hardbound). ISBN 2-922-686-00-0.
Fathi Habashi, Professor of Extractive Metallurgy at Laval University in Québec City, Canada, received a B.Sc. degree in chemical engineering from the University of Cairo (1949), a Dr. tech. degree in inorganic chemical technology from the Technische Universität Wien (1959), and an honorary D.Sc. from the St. Petersburg Mining Institute. He has taught at the Montana College of Mineral Science & Technology and has worked in the Extractive Metallurgical Research Department of the Anaconda Company in Tucson, Arizona before joining Laval in 1970. He has been a guest professor at a number of foreign universities and a consultant to the United Nations Development Program. He is a prolific author and editor, and From Alchemy to Atomic Bombs is one of his latest books .
This attractive volume is a popular panoramic history of chemistry, physics, and metallurgy from the beginnings of alchemy to the latest developments in the discovery of superheavy elements, all treated in the full context of social, political, religious, and cultural events. Seven of its eleven chapters are expanded versions of eight of Habashi’s articles published between 1989 and 2000, the references to which are cited below, while four additional chapters (Chapters 4, 5, 7, and 9) were written especially for the volume to fill in gaps in the historical sequence. Almost half of the book has not been published previously.
There is some inevitable overlap between the chapters, but each can be read as an independent story. The chapters begin with introductions and conclude with epilogues or summaries as well as suggested readings from books and articles (many are Habashi’s earlier articles), some as recent as 1996.
In Chapter 1, “Mythology” (21 pp.) , Habashi explores the relationship between mining and metallurgy, which played an important role in developing civilizations, and mythology, which ancient peoples used to explain all sorts of natural phenomena. After discussing the deities of miners and metallurgists, he discusses 15 elements named after mythological figures. Chapter 2, “The Four Elements” (24 pp) , deals with the well-known concept of the four elements (earth, air, water, and fire) traditionally ascribed to the Greek philosophers, for example, Empedocles, ca. 440 B.C. However, Habashi traces its origin to two centuries before Aristotle—to the Persian philosopher Zarathustra (630–553 B.C.) of Nietzschean fame, whose name was corrupted by Greek writers to Zoroaster. He emphasizes that although these four material entities were useful as a theoretical construct, they have nothing to do with our chemical elements
Chapter 3, “Alchemy” (53 pp) , traces this pseudoscientific predecessor of chemistry from its origins in antiquity to 1777 when the true nature of combustion was understood. No fewer than a dozen beliefs that gave rise to alchemy are considered, and mining and metallurgy in the East, alchemy in the East, the transfer of alchemy to the West, and seminal discoveries in the West are all discussed. Chapter 4, “The Alchemists” (54 pp, the longest chapter), deals with the lives and contributions of both well-known and more obscure figures—17 Arab alchemists of the East, seven Arab alchemists in Andalusia (Muslim Spain), and 33 alchemists of the West, ending with Joseph Priestley, whom Habashi considers the last of the alchemists.
Chapter 5, “Reform in Chemistry, Mineralogy, and Metallurgy” (28 pp), traces attempts at reform from Torbern Bergman through Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier, John Dalton, Jöns Jacob Berzelius, and others, the Karlsruhe Conference, and culminating in modern chemistry and metallurgy. Chapter 6, “Discovery of Electricity” (28 pp) , explores developments from the ancient Greeks, through electrochemistry, electrometallurgy, and the electric furnace.
Chapter 7, “Classification of the Elements” (24 pp), details the evolution of the periodic system from Johann Wolfgang Döbereiner’s triads, through Alexandre Émile Beguyer de Chancourtois’ telluric screw, John Alexander Reina Newlands’ law of octaves, Dmitrii Ivanovich Mendeleev’s periodic law and its later modifications, to discoveries of elements through element 106. Page 233 shows a modification of the periodic table that Habashi has devised (His customary modesty prevents his mentioning himself in connection with this table ).
Chapter 8, “The Modern Physics: Discovery of X-Rays” (22 pp) , begins with Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen’s discovery in 1895, backtracks to William Crookes and his vacuum tube, and deals with J. J. Thomson’s discovery of the electron and early development of X-ray tubes. The remainder of the chapter considers the consequences of Röntgen’s discovery, including radioactivity, the determination of crystal structure, Henry Gwyn Jeffreys Moseley’s atomic numbers, and analytical applications such as X-ray fluorescence, electron microprobe analysis, and X-ray photoelectron microscopy.
Chapter 9, “Radioactivity: Chemistry and Physics United” (15 pp, the shortest chapter), treats Antoine Henri Becquerel’s discovery of radioactivity in 1896 in a similar manner. Its consequences include the discoveries of polonium, radium, actinium, deuterium, artificial radioactivity, uranium fission, and plutonium as well as applications such as radioactive dating and radioactive tracers. I was particularly intrigued by the section (pp 268–270) on the life and work of Claude Félix Abel Niepce de Saint-Victor (1805–1870), who was completely unknown to me. As Habashi has pointed out elsewhere , this cousin of the French photographic pioneer Joseph Nicéphore Niepce, observed the effect of uranium salts on photographic plates in the dark three decades before the similar observation of Becquerel, who is generally credited with the discovery of radioactivity.
Chapter 10, “Uranium Fission” (22 pp) , depicts the contributions of Enrico Fermi, Ida Noddack, Otto Hahn, Fritz Strassmann, Lise Meitner, and Otto Frisch, among others. A long section, “Germany and Uranium Fission” (pp 274–282), deals with the problems encountered by Jewish scientists during the years of the Nazi régime and includes an unusual and useful table (p 280) listing 35 notable physicists and chemists who fled Germany or Nazi-occupied countries, with the years of their departures, and their destinations. Habashi notes, as he has written elsewhere , that Ida Noddack (née Tacke), who had discovered rhenium with her future husband Walter Noddack in 1925, criticized Fermi’s article on the purported—and incorrect—first discovery of a transuranium element (No. 93, then called eka-rhenium); her interpretation of Fermi’s work made her the first to conceive of the idea of nuclear fission.
Chapter 11, “Atomic Bombs” (44 pp) , concludes Habashi’s volume with discussions of various aspects of the history of nuclear weapons from their earliest years to the present: the possibility of a bomb; the Uranium Committee; the Thomson Committee; the Directorate of Tube Alloys; the Canadian Research Council’s contributions; the Metallurgical Laboratory; the Manhattan Project; Los Alamos; the uranium, plutonium, and hydrogen bombs; the Nuclear Club; fallout; the possibility of nuclear accidents; the National Atomic Museum near Albuquerque, New Mexico; and uranium as a strategic metal. I was surprised to learn that on May 7, 1945, more than two months before the well-known Trinity Site test of the first nuclear bomb on July 16, 1945, 100 tons of TNT were detonated as a trial run for the bomb (p 321). Habashi provides full coverage of peace movements by which humankind is attempting to prevent a nuclear holocaust.
Habashi’s book is lavishly illustrated; 32 of the 223 figures, which include portraits (familiar and unfamiliar), woodcuts, title pages, tomb paintings, reliefs, classic paintings, chemical plants, monuments, memorial plaques, maps, etc., are in color. An avid philatelist and coauthor of a book on postage stamps , Habashi has included photographs of eight stamps among the figures as well as a 10,000 lire Italian banknote depicting Alessandro Volta and his Voltaic pile (p 190). There are also five tables that summarize material from the text (actually there are more because some of the figures are actually tables). A name index (7 double-column pages) and a subject index (11 double-column pages) make this volume extremely user-friendly.
Although the book is intended for a general readership, formulas and equations are provided whenever necessary. Considering its scope, it is virtually error-free; most of the errors that inevitably creep into a book of this length are “typos” or misspellings in proper names and should cause no problems: “H. C.” for “A. C.” (Wahl, pp 3, 19, 266, 345), “Godolin” for “Gadolin” (pp 157, 341), “Wilhelm Konrad” for “Wilhelm Conrad” (Röntgen, pp 234, 235, 254, 258, 344), “Engen” for “Eugen” (Goldstein, pp 241, 341), “Lawernce” for “Lawrence” (Bragg, p 247), “Merinsky” for “Marinsky” (pp 248, 343), and “Delbruck” for “Delbrück” (pp 280, 340). Also, Berzelius died in 1848 not 1818, but admittedly the correct date is given several times on the same page (p 3), and Röntgen’s discovery of X-rays appeared in the Sitzungsberichte der physikalisch-medicinischen Gesellschaft zu Würzburg not the Sitzungsberichte der physikalisch-medizine Gesellschaft (p 236). These minor errors should be corrected in a future printing.
This popular history will be of interest to anyone concerned with the mutual interactions, both positive and negative, between chemistry, physics, and metallurgy and civilization from earliest times to the present, which should include just about everyone. Its numerous illustrations will make it especially attractive to a younger audience. Although it contained much information that was familiar to me, I also found many historical and biographical nuggets of which I was previously unaware. Thus it will also be useful to chemists, physicists, and metallurgists, those interested in the history of these disciplines, historians of science, and specialists in the social and governmental aspects of science.
References and Notes
1. Habashi’s Schools of Mines: The Beginnings of Mining and Metallurgical Education and Metals from Ores: An Introduction to Extractive Metallurgy, both published by Métallurgie Extractive Québec, a nonprofit publisher devoted to the diffusion of extractive metallurgy literature, which has published many of Habashi’s 17 books, appeared in 2003.
2. Habashi, F. Mining, Metallurgy, and Mythology. Bull. Can. Inst. Min. & Met. 1992, 85, 79–83.
3. Habashi, F. Zoroaster and the Theory of Four Elements. Bull. Hist. Chem. 2000, 25, 109–115.
4. Habashi, F. The Age of Alchemy. History of Chemistry, Metallurgy, and Civilization. Interdiscip. Sci. Rev. 1998, 23, 348–361.
5. Habashi, F. Two Hundred Years Electric Current. The Impact on Metallurgy. Bull. Can. Inst. Min. & Met. 1999, 92, 86–92.
6. After his March 4, 1999 seminar, “A New Look at the Periodic Table,” for the CSUF Chemistry Department, Fathi kindly presented me with a T-shirt depicting this table.
7. Habashi, F. Hundred Years X-Rays. Bull. Can. Inst. Min. & Met. 1995, 88, 31–36; reprinted in Interdiscip. Sci. Rev. 1996, 21, 36–44.
8. Habashi, F. Niepce de Saint-Victor and the Discovery of Radioactivity. Bull. Hist. Chem. 2001, 26, 104–105.
9. Habashi, F. Fiftieth Anniversary of Uranium Fission. Contribution of Two Women Scientists. Bull. Can. Inst. Min. & Met. 1989, 82, 80–84; Habashi, F. A Note on the Discovery of Nuclear Fission. Bull. Hist. Chem. 1989, 3, 15–16.
10. Habashi, F. Ida Noddack (1896–1978). Bull. Can. Inst. Min. & Met. 1985, 78, 90–93.
11. Habashi, F. Fifty Years Atomic Bombs. Bull. Can. Inst. Min. & Met. 1995, 88, 97–105.
12. Habashi, F.; Hendricker, D.; Gignac, C. Mining and Metallurgy on Postage Stamps; Métallurgie Extractive Québec: Quebec, 1999 (paperback).
George B. Kauffman
California State University, Fresno, firstname.lastname@example.org
Encyclopedia of Chromatography. Edited by Jack Cazes. Marcel Dekker: New York, Basel, 2001. xxx + 927 pp., hardcover, 22.0 ´ 28.4 cm. $395.00. ISBN 0-8247-0511-4.
Although Laszlo Zechmeister and others have shown that the technique had been used earlier, Mikhail Semenovich Tswett (1872–1919) [1, 2], a Swiss-born Russian plant physiologist and biochemist, is generally credited with originating column adsorption chromatography. Tswett was profoundly interested in adsorption generally, and he used it not only as an analytical tool but also used it to explain various plant systems. In 1901 he presented his preliminary ideas on the separation of chlorophyll pigments by chromatographic adsorption in his master’s thesis for the University of Kazan . On December 30, 1901 he reported more fully on his method at the 11th Congress of Russian Natural Scientists and Physicians at St. Petersburg and on March 8, 1903 to the Biological Section of the Warsaw Society of Natural Scientists.
In 1906 Tswett published two articles on his method and his use of it to determine the pigment composition of plant leaves [4, 5]. Here he suggested that the method be called “chromatography,” and he formulated the law of adsorption replacement. He also included a diagram of his apparatus . Of the 126 powdered adsorbents that he tried, he found that calcium carbonate, sugar cane, and inulin were the most effective for isolating plant pigments.
Tswett’s method was known to many of his contemporary scientists and was used in a number of laboratories to purify chlorophylls and carotenoids, but its acceptance was limited. Its wider use dates from the 1930s, when Richard Kuhn, Laszlo Zechmeister, and Paul Karrer employed it to study the chemistry of carotene and vitamin A. Dozens of hitherto unknown carotenoids and their products were isolated, and the method was applied to colorless substances such as hormones, enzymes, and vitamins.
Many new forms of Tswett’s method were developed until chromatography has become one of the most important analytical technologies and methodologies of the twentieth century. It has become the method of choice for the solution of problems in a variety of fields such as analytical chemistry, biology, biochemistry, medicine, agriculture, pharmaceuticals, polymer science, food processing and additives, nutrients, pathology, toxicology, fossil fuels, environmental sciences, nuclear chemistry, pathology, and biotechnology—in short, in any case where it is necessary to obtain extremely pure substances, to separate complex mixtures, or to identify unknown compounds. All of these developments and applications are discussed fully in the book under review here.
Indeed, if he were alive today, Tswett would be amazed and overwhelmed by the monumental advances made in the development of the relatively simple method that he initially devised for his study of plant pigments. He would also be pleased with the Encyclopedia of Chromatography, a practical source of information on chromatographic methodologies and technologies that have been developed since his premature death at the age of 47.
Jack Cazes, a consultant in chromatography and analytical instrumentation and a Visiting Scholar and Adjunct Professor at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, is the ideal person to edit this authoritative, up-to-date encyclopedia. The author, coauthor, or editor of several books and many articles on these disciplines, he is also the editor of the Journal of Liquid Chromatography & Related Technologies, Instrumentation Science & Technology, Preparative Biochemistry & Biotechnology, and the Journal of Immunoassay & Immunochemistry. For three and a half decades he has been at the forefront of liquid chromatography research, and he pioneered the development of modern HPLC technology.
Cazes’ work is an international venture; the 218 authors are employed by leading universities, commercial firms, government laboratories, research institutes, and scientific academies in 29 countries (United States, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Czech Republic, England, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Korea, The Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland).
In one unified compilation the encyclopedia contains 317 signed articles, alphabetically arranged from “Absorbance Detection in Capillary Electrophoresis” to “Zone-Dispersion in Field-Flow Fractionation.” They range in length from 1/2 page (“Channeling and Column Voids,” p 153) to 9 pages (“Application of Capillary Electrochromatography to Biopolymers and Pharmaceuticals,” pp 49–58); most are about two pages long. They include detailed bibliographies of reference works (articles, book chapters, and books), some as recent as 2000, and suggested further reading. The text and references should provide useful data on both the latest innovations as well as techniques that have now become standard methods.
More than a thousand figures as well as numerous tables, mathematical and chemical equations, structural formulas, reaction schemes, diagrams, photographs, and graphs are included. A table of contents listing every article, a detailed author index (31 double-column pages), and a subject index (9 double-column pages) facilitate location of material. The author index cites not only authors of references and suggested further readings but also authors of the encyclopedia entries themselves.
As Professor Cazes points out, the encyclopedia “is by no means complete; rather it is the basis for an ongoing compendium of information that will serve to introduce novices as well as seasoned chromatographers to specific topics for which a leading reference, an introductory understanding, or starting point is needed and to lead one to further reading on the subject.” As with other Dekker encyclopedias, The Encyclopedia of Chromatography is updated quarterly online . Purchasers of the print edition will receive a free online subscription for one year.
This encyclopedia should become a first and frequently used source of information on just about every conceivable chromatographic technique. These include, among others, the following (to save space I’ve omitted the word chromatography each time): affinity, capillary electrochromatography, capillary electrophoresis, capillary isotachophoresis centrifugal partition, centrifugal precipitation, chiral countercurrent, displacement, dry-column, electrokinetic, elution, field-flow fractionation, foam countercurrent, frontal, gas, gel filtration, gel permeation, gradient-elution, high-temperature high-resolution, high-performance liquid, hydrophobic interaction, ion-exchange, ion-exclusion, ion-interaction, ion-replacement, immunoaffinity, liquid-liquid partition, micellar electrokinetic, normal-phase, overpressured layer, planar, sedimentary, size-exclusion, supercritical fluid, thin-layer, and two-dimensional.
Among the substances and classes of materials subjected to chromatographic methods that are dealt with in this work are the following: alcoholic beverages, amino acids, antiobiotics, carbohydrates, cells, ceramides, chiral compounds, colloids, coumarins, drugs, dyes, glycosides, lipids, metal ions, natural products, natural rubber, nucleic acids, peptides, pesticides, phenols, plant extracts, pollutants, polyamides, polycarbonates, polyesters, polymers, prostaglandins, proteins, steroids, surfactants, taxoids, and toxins.
This single-volume, state-of-the-art encyclopedia highlights real-world applications, easy-to-read fundamentals of problem solving, and more than 2600 detailed references. As such, it should be of interest to chemists, especially analytical chemists, environmental and biopharmaceutical chemists, biochemists, chromatographers, mass spectroscopists, laboratory technicians and researchers involved in LC-MS separation techniques, biotechnologists, and other scientists, engineers, and students concerned with the principles of chromatography and their uses. It also belongs in both academic and industrial libraries.
References and Notes
1. Senchenkova, E. M. Tsvet (or Tswett), Mikhhail Semenovich.InDictionary of Scientific Biography; Gillispie, C. C., Ed.; Charles Scribner’s Sons: New York, NY, 1976; Vol. 13, pp 486–488.
2. Robinson, T. Michael Tswett. Chymia 1960, 6, 146–161.
3. Tswett, M. Fiziko-khimicheskoe stroenie khlorofilnogo zerna. Trudy Kazanskogo obshchestva estestvoispyatatelei 1901, 35 (3), 1–268.
4. Tswett, M. Physikalisch-chemische Studien über das Chlorophyll. Die Adsorptionen. Ber. Deutsch. bot. Gesell. 1906, 24, 316–323.
5. Tswett, M. Adsorptionsanalyse und chromatographische Methode. Anwendung auf die Chemie des Chlorophylls. Ber. Deutsch. bot. Gesell. 1906, 24, 384–393.
6. Encyclopedia of Chromatography Updates Online. http://www .dekker.com/servlet/product/productid/E-ECHR.
George B. Kauffman
California State University, Fresno, email@example.com
Mechanism and Synthesis (The Molecular World Series). Edited by Peter Taylor. The Open University and The Royal Society of Chemistry: Cambridge, England. 340 pp, softcover, 21.0 ´ 26.3 cm. £27.50. ISBN 0-85404-695-X.
The teaching of reaction mechanisms and the synthesis of organic molecules are very important topics in undergraduate organic chemistry courses. The problem for a significant number of first-year undergraduates is to move from learning bare facts to understanding the basic concepts. There are several excellent standard organic chemistry textbooks available for first-year undergraduates, but there is a need for supplementary reading texts that offer visual impact and hence can create a lasting impression on students. Mechanism and Synthesis is written as course material for part of the Open University Course in the U.K.; however, it is also suitable for use as supplementary reading material for first-year undergraduates in other universities.
The general design of the book is impressive. The use of color illustrations throughout the text is very eye-catching. Frequently, the historical background of chemicals and biographical sketches of famous chemists are provided to illustrate a particular topic. For example, we learn that the alkaloid morphine derived its name from Morpheus, the Greek god of sleep and dream. This approach increases the fun element of the book.
Part 1 is focused solely on nucleophilic addition to carbonyl compounds. This topic is generally well presented; however, other important topics, such as conjugate addition to enones and malonate and acetoacetate chemistry are not included. This is slightly disappointing. There are minor errors like an incomplete equilibrium constant on p.48, and on p.53 the reduction of a secondary amide with lithium aluminium hydride should generate an alkoxyaluminate intermediate rather than a lithium alkoxide. It is also incorrect that the NH of the secondary amide remains unaffected by lithium aluminium hydride.
Part 2 emphasises the use of simple organometallics in organic synthesis. It is a good mixture of material covering Grignard, organolithium, organosodium, organocopper, and organoboron reagents. The chapter on organocopper chemistry is relatively light on information, which is a pity because the authors could have used this opportunity to introduce conjugate addition of organocopper to enones. The chapter on organoboron chemistry only covers hydroboration. I think it is more suitable to discuss hydroboration in alcohol synthesis.
Part 3 discusses radical chemistry. A significant proportion of the material in this section is beyond the standard of first-year undergraduate courses; however, it could be used as an introduction to radical chemistry for second-and third-year students. There are also minor points that may require attention. In scheme 3.1 (p 132), an electron is injected into a ketone via the carbon atom of the carbonyl. The mechanism is depicted as a combination of full arrow and half arrow. Undergraduates may find it difficult to follow. Also, in equation 3.11 (p138), the tautomerism of an enediol to a hydroxyketone is represented as a kind of intramolecular proton shift, which is incorrect. The preferential formation of 5- over 6-membered rings in radical cyclization is presented but without any detailed explanation. The author may want to amend that in future editions.
Part 4 deals with strategy and methodology in organic synthesis. This topic demonstrates the application of logic in designing syntheses. Simple organic compounds are used as examples. The level of the retrosynthetic analysis and synthons covered here is sufficiently simple for first-year undergraduates to appreciate and understand. Tables 5.1, A.1, and A.2 are particular useful for cross-reference of various transformations, synthons, and reagents. It is also good to see that space is allocated to discuss factors affecting yields, time, cost, and safety in organic synthesis.
Part 5 discusses the synthesis and biosynthesis of terpenes and steroids. The first half focuses on the synthetic aspect of these natural products. This is very much a continuation of Part 4. Enolate chemistry is presented in this section as a C–C bond formation method. Obviously, the authors are conveying the idea that enolate is a carbon nucleophile and hence represented as a carbanion. I think this may give students the impression that the carbanion representation is more appropriate than the enolate representation, something the authors may want to change in later editions. The second half discusses the biosynthesis of steroids and includes the isoprene rule and applied carbocation chemistry. This material is suitable for an introductory course in biosynthesis for second- or third-year undergraduates.
The case study in polymer chemistry appears to be aimed at general science education. It is interesting but is probably too easy for undergraduates.
Each part ends with learning outcomes to remind readers of the general concepts covered; questions with answers are provided for practice. At the end of the book there is a CD-ROM that contains more questions relating to all of the topics covered in the book. Generally, I found it easy to use. The movie contained in the CD-ROM on the production of contact lenses is quite informative.
This book is written for beginners in organic chemistry and, therefore, avoids lengthy discussion on fundamental concepts. The price is quite high due to the use of multicolor illustrations. Despite that I am happy to recommend this book to libraries as supplementary reading material for students; however, individual students may be reluctant to acquire this book because of its price and the limited topic range.
Dyson Perrins Laboratory, University of Oxford, England, Victor.Lee@chem.ox.ac.uk
Toxicological Chemistry and Biochemistry, 3rd edition. By Stanley E. Manahan. Lewis Publishers (CRC Press), Boca Raton, FL, 2003. 425 pp, hardcover, 1.14 x 9.58 x 6.68 in,$99.95. ISBN: 1-5667-0618-1.
Has Napoleon been poisoned with Arsenic? Is plutonium the most poisonous chemical element? How dangerous is acryl amide in food? Are amalgam tooth fillings dangerous to your health?
Toxicological questions confront the chemist almost every day of his life. Most chemistry books do not mention toxic effects of elements and compounds or do so only at a glance. Textbooks of toxicology on the other hand are primarily designed for medical students and physicians who usually do not have zeal for chemical fine details. Stanley Manahan’s book, therefore, has the potential to fill a gap that bridges chemistry and (pharmacological) toxicology. To a large extent he has succeeded in achieving the intended aim.
The first half of his book is devoted to general topics that pave the ground for the more specific information that follows. Readers with a good prior working knowledge of general chemistry and basic toxicology may skip these sections. Medical toxicologists, for example, may dive directly into later chapters (10 onward) to retrieve the specific information they need.
Chemistry students and teachers with little background will find, in the first half of Toxicological Chemistry and Biochemistry, a well-presented and easily digestible introduction. The book starts with an elementary discussion of very basic chemistry. The whole book is largely self-contained and self-sufficient, as all the necessary background knowledge for understanding later chapters is included. Whether it is really essential to include this fundamental information is a matter of debate, but it ensures that no reader is left behind by inadvertently sliding into an expert discussion.
During the introduction of organic compound classes, the focus is entirely on those substances that are of particular toxicological relevance. Environmental chemistry is presented as a subject in its own right before some basic biochemistry is introduced in chapter 3. As the environment can be a significant source of harmful chemicals, both natural and man-made, this is a sensible move. Chapters 4 through 9 lead the user into more specialized toxicological areas.
From chapter 10 onwards, systematic toxicology prevails. The presentation follows what seems to be a logical order: toxic properties of elements are followed by those of inorganic compounds, then organic compounds divided into specific substance classes. Toxic natural compounds come last and are discussed only quite briefly. The chapter on natural toxins and venoms might have been more extensive. Most space is given to the various classes of organic chemical compounds that might pose a threat to health.
All chapters are subdivided, and in the bulk of the text in boldface type is used to ease navigation and retrieval of specific information. The author is to be congratulated on keeping the paragraph headlines sober and simple instead of falling victim to the spreading disease of annoying pseudo-explanatory verbosity. “14.3 Phenols” and “14.3.2 Toxicology of Phenols,” for example, say precisely and succinctly what the reader is going to encounter and this style is so much better than “Phenols are aromatic alcohol analogs, many of which can have caustic effects and which have for this reason been used for a long time as disinfectants but are not used any longer as many stupid people have ruined their skins with it and some people even drank it in futile attempts to commit suicide.”
Unfortunately this kind of nonsense, which is an insult to any reader of average (and above) intelligence, is to be found in every other textbook on the market today. In accordance with this feature the text of Dr. Manahan’s book is straighforward and succint, therefore readable throughout.
Chapters are well structured, and each chapter contains references as well as “questions and problems.” Answers are not included, which means that the users are trusted to be smart enough to find the answers in the text if they do not know them. The questions are a welcome aid in testing oneself after reading, or better still, by going back to them after a while to see what is “sticky” and what is “volatile” knowledge.
All in all, Toxicological Chemistry and Biochemistry is an interesting addition to a crowded textbook market. It conveys detailed information on topics that are often treated lightly by other volumes on related disciplines. It is well designed and well suited for people with a chemical rather than a medical background as it is biased towards the mechanistic side rather than the diagnosis/treatment side of toxic chemicals and the intoxications that might cause. For those actively involved in working with chemical compounds beyond sugar, salt, and (the most beloved toxin of all) ethanol, the book contains information and advice that may well prove useful during the handling of substances. Teachers might pass on some of the information during their teaching, increasing their pupils awareness and competence. Readers of this book may gain a great deal of valuable information when dealing with media news on yet another harmful “something” found in what we eat, drink or breathe.
Despite the overall good impression, there are a few flaws. The paragraph on beryllium in the chapter on toxic elements does not mention the carcinogenic effects of the compounds of this element, which is odd because they are well known and documented. Uranium and plutonium are not mentioned at all, despite the fact that due to their massive technological use they are found around the globe. These flaws, however, are few and far between, and they do not seriously diminish the value to the work.
Ackerroete 10, 37077 Goettingen, Germany, firstname.lastname@example.org