The Chemical Educator, Vol. 9, No.4, Media Reviews, © 2004 The Chemical Educator
Handbook of Fuel Cells: Fundamentals, Technology and Applications. Wolf Vielstich, Arnold Lamm, and Hubert A. Gasteiger, Editors. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.: Chichester, England, 2003. 4 volumes. Figures, tables. lxxxii + 2604 pp, 22.3 ´ 28.7 cm. $1565.00. ISBN 0-471-49926-9.
Recently fuel cells, which convert chemical energy directly into electrical energy and which were initially developed in the 1960s as on-board power supply units for spacecraft, have been the focus of electrochemical research and technology development not only because of the scientifically fascinating complexity of their reactions but also because of society’s drive toward developing environmentally friendly power generation. For example, fuel cells operating at much lower temperatures than internal combustion engines avoid the production of nitrogen oxides (NOx), major pollutants emitted by conventional engines. Other hazardous emissions such as carbon monoxide are also drastically lowered in fuel cell–powered vehicles and are reduced to zero (“zero-emission vehicles”) when hydrogen is used as fuel for the polymer electrolyte fuel cell (PEFC) because water is the only exhaust product of the system.
In the search for a highly efficient, emission-free drive system, mobile automotive fuel cell units have been developed. In 2003 the first bus series using gaseous hydrogen fuel, developed by 30 companies and universities as well as enterprises from the petroleum and natural gas sectors, began operations initially in ten cities in eight European countries, and similar activities are under way in Japan and the United States.
Fuel cell technology is a highly varied, interdisciplinary field extending from the available fuels and their processing, through the fundamentals of the electrochemical processes, particularly electrocatalysis, to the numerous new concepts in systems technology for complete fuel cell aggregates, including the control of gas, water, and heat management. Thousands of articles in the field appear annually, and the number of patent applications, especially from the industrial sector, has similarly proliferated. Because recently published monographs and symposium volumes do not provide an adequate overview of the entire field, three authorities from three different countries have joined forces to produce a handbook intended to close this gap.
Wolf Vielstich of IQSC, São Carlos, Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil, who habilitated in physical chemistry at the Universität Bonn in 1962, was coordinator of the first European project on the direct methanol fuel cell (DMFC) (1986–1998). His work on electrochemistry has resulted in more than 250 publications, more than 10 patents, books on fuel cells and electrochemical kinetics, and textbooks on electrochemistry. Since 1997Arnold Lamm, the holder of more than 40 patents on fuel cells, has been Senior Manager for fuel cell systems at DaimlerChrysler Research and Technology, Ulm, Germany, where his work has included the demonstration of the world’s first DMFC-vehicle, development of gasoline/diesel fuel processors for stationary and mobile applications, and development of advanced components for fuel cell propulsion systems. Hubert A. Gasteiger, since 1998 manager of stack components development at GM/Opel’s Global Alternative Propulsion Center, Mainz, Germany and of Fuel Cells Activities, General Motors Corporation, Honeoye Falls, NY, is the author of 45 publications and co-chaired the 2000 Gordon Research Conference on Fuel Cells. Vielstich, Lamm, and Gasteiger contributed five, one, and four articles, respectively, for the handbook that they edited.
This authoritative, interdisciplinary, comprehensive reference source brings together for the first time the fundamentals, principles, and current state of the art in fuel cell technology and underscores the increasing importance of and the burgeoning rate of research and development of this alternative, clean source of energy. In keeping with the worldwide nature of developments in the field, the editors and their international Advisory Board of ten members from the United States, Austria, Brazil, Germany, Japan, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom have assembled a team of 285 contributors from academic, industrial, and governmental institutions, primarily from the United States (99), Germany (73), Japan (22), Switzerland (19), Canada (13), the United Kingdom (9), Brazil (5), Austria (5), Denmark (5), South Africa (5), and lesser numbers from Argentina, the Netherlands, Israel, Italy, Russia, Chile, and Poland.
The handbook’s 170 articles range in length from one page (“What is electrocatalysis?”) to 74 pages (“History of low-temperature fuel cells,” which includes 361 references, some as recent as 2002). Both the volumes and articles are arranged topically rather than alphabetically, and their logical, consistent approach guides the reader from foundations and fundamental principles through the latest cutting-edge technology and applications.
Volume 1. “Fundamentals and Survey of Systems” (xvii + 449 pp; 24 articles; the shortest volume), provides background information on fuel cells, the fundamentals of electrochemistry, thermodynamics, and kinetics, underlying principles of mass and heat transfer in fuel cells, and, following a historical introduction, briefly presents an overview of the most important types of systems developed to date, along with their applications. The volume is divided as follows:
Part 1: “Thermodynamics and kinetics of fuel cell reactions” (6 articles)
Part 2: “Mass transfer in fuel cells” (2 articles)
Part 3: “Heat transfer in fuel cells” (3 articles)
Part 4: “Fuel cell principles, systems and applications” (13 articles)
Volume 2. “Electrocatalysis” (xix + 783 pp; 50 articles; the longest volume), deals with the most important basic phenomenon of fuel cell electrodes, viz., electrocatalysis, ranging from the theoretical fundamentals to almost all processes occurring in all the different types of fuel cells, including the current understanding of their reaction mechanisms. As the first detailed volume to be published on this crucial field, it should be of intense interest beyond the community of scientists and engineers directly involved with fuel cells and their applications. It is divided as follows:
Part 1: “Introduction” (7 articles)
Part 2: “Theory of electrocatalysis” (6 articles)
Part 3: “Methods in electrocatalysis” (11 articles)
Part 4: “The hydrogen oxidation/evolution reaction” (5 articles)
Part 5: “The oxygen reduction/evolution reaction” (11 articles)
Part 6: “Oxidation of small organic molecules” (6 articles)
Part 7: “Other energy conversion related topics” (4 articles)
Whereas Volumes 1 and 2 are separately paginated, Volume 3, “Fuel Cell Technology and Applications Part 1” (xxiii + 677 pp; 50 articles), and Volume 4, “Fuel Cell Technology and Applications Part 2” (xxiii + 695 pp; 46 articles), are considered as a single unit as shown by the consecutive pagination and consecutive division into parts. They present the current state of development of materials and systems in minute detail along with their practical applications. They also consider current predictions of potential fuel cell markets and possible further technological and economic developments, including the interplay between technological progress and possible market penetrations of fuel cell systems based on economic considerations. The advantages and disadvantages of the various fuel cell systems are discussed within this context. The volumes are divided and subdivided as follows:
Part 1: “Sustainable energy supply” (5 articles)
Part 2: “Hydrogen storage and hydrogen generation”
“Development prospects for hydrogen storage” (3 articles)
“Chemical hydrogen storage devices” (2 articles)
“Reforming of methanol and fuel processor development” (3 articles)
“Fuel processing from hydrocarbons to hydrogen” (7 articles)
“Wheel-to-wheel efficiencies” (1 article)
“Hydrogen safety, codes and standards” (1 article)
Part 3: “Polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells and systems
“Bipolar plate materials and flow field design” (7 articles)
“Membrane materials” (7 articles)
“Electro-catalysts” (5 articles)
“Membrane-electrode-assembly (MEA)” (4 articles)
“State-of-the-art performance and durability” (5 articles)
Part 3: “Polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells and systems
“System design and system-specific aspects” (3 articles)
“Air-supply components” (1 article)
“Applications based on PEM-technology” (1 article)
Part 4: “Alkaline fuel cells and systems (AFC)” (3 articles)
Part 5: “Phosphoric acid fuel cells and systems” (3 articles)
Part 6: “Direct methanol fuel cells and systems (DMFC)” (4 articles)
Part 7: “Molten carbonate fuel cells and systems (MCFC)” (4 articles)
Part 8: “Solid oxide fuel cells and systems (SOFC)”
“Materials” (5 articles)
“Stack and system design” (2 articles)
“New concepts” (3 articles)
Part 9: “Primary and secondary metal/air cells” (1 article)
Part 10: “Portable fuel cell systems” (3 articles)
Part 11: “Current fuel cell propulsion systems”
“PEM fuel cell systems for cars/buses” (4 articles)
“PEM fuel cell systems for submarines” (1 article)
“AFC fuel cell systems” (2 articles)
Part 12: “Electric utility fuel cell systems” (3 articles)
Part 13: “Future prospects of fuel cell systems” (3 articles)
The handbook includes numerous chemical and mathematical equations, diagrams, figures, tables, and photographs. In contrast to most encyclopedias, information for the entire set is contained in each volume. Every volume includes a three-page foreword by Shimshon Gottesfeld, Chief Technology Officer and Vice President for Research & Development, MTI Microfuel Cells of Albany, NY; a single-page preface by the editors; complete lists of the titles and pages of the articles in all the volumes; and a three-page glossary of abbreviations and acronyms from “a.c.” (alternating current) to “ZEV” (zero emission vehicle). Subject indexes for Volumes 1 (10 pp) and 2 (16 pp) appear in those volumes, no subject index appears in Volume 3, and a 32-subject index for Volumes 3 and 4 appears in Volume 4. Unfortunately, no cross-references seem to be included. In reference 51, Volume 1, p 211, my name is misspelled “Kauffmann,” an error to which I have become accustomed.
This handbook is an invaluable reference source for everyone working in this significant and dynamic field of science and technology as well as for electrochemists, scientists, engineers, and policy-makers involved in the ongoing quest for a nonpolluting, sustainable source of energy. It should also find a place in academic, industrial, and governmental libraries.
George B. Kauffman
California State University, Fresno, email@example.com
That’s the Way the Cookie Crumbles: 62 All-New Commentaries on the Fascinating Chemistry of Everyday Life. By Dr. Joe Schwarcz; 14 cartoons by Brian Gamble. ECW Press: 2020 Queen Street East, Suite 200, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4E, 2002. 273 pp, paperback, 14.0 ´ 20.9 cm. $14.95; CDN$17.95. ISBN 1-55022-520-0.
Dr. Joe has done it again! Another hit! One more fascinating read from the well-known, award-winning Hungarian-born Canadian popular-science writer. During his decades of interacting with the public, Schwarcz realized that
There are numerous misconceptions about science out there that need to be addressed. It has also become painfully clear that whenever science cannot provide an adequate answer, charlatans rush in to fill the void (p 13).
The present volume, winner of the 2003 Independent Publisher Book Award for science, is a worthy successor to his two previous attempts at demystifying science, Radar, Hula Hoops, and Playful Pigs (W. H. Freeman: New York, 1999), and The Genie in the Bottle: 64 All New Commentaries on the Fascinating Chemistry of Everyday Life (ECW Press: Toronto, Canada, 2000; for my review see Chem. Educator 2002, 7(6), 391–393; DOI 10.1333/s00897020635a). Like its predecessors, the book’s goal is
to educate and entertain the reader with up-to-date, readily understandable commentaries designed not only to help develop a feel for the workings of science, but also to provide some of the background needed to separate sense from nonsense. And there’s plenty of down-to-earth, practical scientific information here as well. You’ll learn how to remove stains from clothes, how to lower your cholesterol with oats, how to make “oobleck”—and you’ll discover why the cookie crumbles (pp 13–14).
In my opinion, Schwarcz has once again accomplished his goal.
After Schwarcz and his colleagues had demonstrated the preparation of polyurethane foam at the annual “Man and His World” exhibit, a descendent of Expo ‘67, the Montréal world’s fair, a local journalist, who had confused polyurethane foam with urea-formaldehyde foam, accused them of brewing up a potentially toxic substance. Schwarcz sent a letter to the columnist, who wrote a retraction. He soon received a telephone call from a local radio station (CJAD) asking him to comment on the “controversy.” Several weeks later they asked him to discuss some chemistry-related issues, leading to “The Right Chemistry,” a regular weekly call-in program that began in 1982 and is still on the air. The show resulted in requests to present public lectures, make TV appearances, and write newspaper columns and books.
In 1999 these efforts culminated in the founding of the McGill University Office for Chemistry and Society “to provide accurate, unbiased scientific information on various issues of public concern and [to] welcome all kinds of queries about scientific matters, particularly as they pertain to daily life” (p 13). Expanded and renamed the McGill University Office for Science and Society, it is now directed by Schwarcz, who, in addition to teaching in McGill’s Chemistry Department and Faculty of Medicine, also has regularly appeared on Canada’s Discovery Channel since 1995, TV Ontario, and Global Television and who has been writing columns for the Montréal Gazette and Canadian Chemical News since 1997 and 2000, respectively. He has made more than 600 presentations to conferences, universities, schools, and interest groups and more than a thousand presentations on TV and radio, and he is the recipient of numerous honors, including the Chemical Manufacturers Association Catalyst Award (1986), the American Chemical Society’s James Flack Norris Award (1990), and its prestigious James T. Grady-James H. Stack Award for Interpreting Chemistry for the Public (1999).
As usual Dr. Joe introduces his volume with a personal anecdote. He recalls an incident in his ninth-grade science class when he asked his teacher Mr. Labcoat (a pseudonym) a long-forgotten question. Schwarcz understood the reply, “That’s just the way the cookie crumbles,” to mean that his instructor “had no ready answer and was unwilling to search for one” (p 11). Today when he endeavors to answer people’s questions about science, Schwarcz remembers this childhood episode as a “great motivator to do the necessary research instead of offering up the easy ‘cookie’ answer” and as “a constant reminder of the limitations of our scientific knowledge” (p 11).
The 62 essays range in length from 2-1/2 pages (“Pi Water and Erect Electrons,” pp 253–255) to 8-1/2 pages (“Aspartame: Guilty or Innocent?,” pp 40–48). Most of them are 3 to 4 pages long. The first of the book’s four sections, “Healthy Science” (35 essays, 149 pp, ca. 59% of the entire book and the longest section), deals with a variety of commonplace topics of interest to almost everyone, including microwaves, radiation, cell phones, “good” and “bad” cholesterol, yogurt, probiotics (preparations containing specific microorganisms to provide beneficial health effects), osteoporosis, nutraceuticals (foods or beverages providing health benefits beyond simple nutrition), fortified foods, saccharin, aspartame (“perhaps the most widely researched food additive ever to have landed on the market”), fiber, artificial flavors, gingerbread, beer, barbecue carcinogens, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, hangovers, DNA, biotechnology, genetic engineering, cheese making, pesticides, allergies, dietary supplements, improving memory in aging adults, salt and high blood pressure, human growth hormone (HGH), homeopathy, dental fillings, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and dioxin. Included in this section is the essay that gives the book its title, “That’s the Way the Cookie Crumbles” (pp 114–118). The crumbling is related to the molecular structure of the ingredients: “Closely packed fats are what make for crumbly cookies and flaky pastry. They also make for clogged arteries” (p 117).
“Everyday Science” (14 essays, 50 pp, ca. 20 percent of the book), the book’s second section, is concerned with various products, such as stain removal, matches, cooking ware, nerve gases, light bulbs, nylon, natural and synthetic rubber, “oobleck” (well known to Dr. Seuss fans from his 1949 classic, Bartholomew and the Oobleck), Plexiglas, torpedoes, airbags, soap, detergents, spiders, lightning, and electricity.
“Looking Back” (7 essays, 26 pp, ca. 10 percent of the book), the third section, uses a primarily historical approach to introduce a variety of scientific topics and the persons who contributed to them. These include peanut butter, hot dogs, Lydia Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound (It’s still made but no longer contains black cohosh), William Henry Perkin’s mauve and synthetic dyes, Fritz Haber’s nitrogen fixation process and his use of chlorine as a poison gas, radium, Michael Faraday and his achievements in chemistry and physics, and phosphorus.
Schwarcz’s book’s final section, “Poppycock” (6 essays, 23 pp, ca. 9 percent of the book, the shortest section), debunks or explains such pseudoscientific or anti-scientific claims as fire walking, magic, the Kellogg brothers and their diets, Pi water, simple solutions to complex health problems, vitamin miracle cures, and Hadacol.
The reader is instantly drawn into each of the essays by their humorous, ingenious, or catchy titles such as: “An Ode to the Oat,” “The Secret Life of Bagels,” “A Toast to Toast,” “Gassing Green Bananas,” “Agitate for Ice Cream,” “Man Cannot Live on Corn Alone,” “Paprika’s Peppery Past,” “Beer Science Is Still Brewing,” “Hard Lessons about Soft Drinks,” “When DNA Come Out to Play,” “Frankenfuror” (genetically modified foods), “The Growing Growth Hormone Industry,” “Get the Lead Out” (lead poisoning), “How Many People Does It Take to Invent a Lightbulb?,” “Untangling the Web of Spider Lore,” “Mauving On” (synthetic dyes); and “The Dark Side of Radium’s Glow.”
Schwarcz offers a number of ingenious techniques for coping with life’s little problems. If you put green bananas in a bag with a yellow one, the green ones will quickly turn yellow because of the action of the plant hormone ethylene (p 60). Because banana peel contains amyl acetate, you can use it to clean your shoes (p 61). Since Coca-Cola contains phosphate, which forms a soluble complex with iron, it can be used to loosen rusty bolts and remove rust spots. You can remove rust spots on a chrome bumper with aluminum foil dipped in Coke, and you can also use it to clean a toilet bowl (p 96). Schwarcz also dismisses and debunks many similar tricks and household hints as mere urban myths.
In contrast to most popular books on science, many of the essays bear the authoritative stamp of a first-person experience and include sentences such as: “When I was in elementary school, a teacher attempted to dissuade us from chewing gum in class with the following ditty.” “I came across this product when I was doing some research into the chemistry of memory.” “Like most chemists, I like to cook. After all, what is cooking but the appropriate mixing of chemicals?” “My first trip to New York was in 1964. A couple of buddies and I decided we had to see the World’s Fair.” “I had a strange lunch the other day. A hot dog, a cracker with peanut butter, a wad of cotton candy, and an ice cream cone, all washed down with Dr. Pepper.” “I think of the Radium Girls almost every night. It happens when I check the time on my glowing watch dial—usually just after I’ve been reminded of the passing years by nature’s nocturnal call.” He also shares this diatribe with the reader: “Joe Blow [he means me] works at McGill University, once the most active hive of mind-control experimentation in the world and still very involved with the CIA. He writes for Reader’s Digest, a CIA publication. A professional prostitute on the CIA payroll. A fascist collaborator who smears antifascists for fun and profit” (p 48). Thus in addition to learning lots of practical science, especially chemistry, we learn much about Schwarcz’s family, friends, and personal life—even the condition of his prostate (he shares a complaint common to our generation).
As one who has written popular articles on chemistry and science for newspapers and magazines, I read the volume with admiration and envy. On almost every page I kept asking myself “Where did Dr. Joe unearth all these curious and little known facts?” (Of course, a popular book is not expected to include formulas, equations, or references so Schwarcz does not disclose many of his sources). For example, did you know any of the following? The Jerusalem artichoke is not an artichoke at all, and “Jerusalem” is a corruption of the Italian word girasole (turning to the sun). Montréal is the center of the bagel world, and the name came from Beugel (German dialect for “ring” or “bracelet”). The banana is the most popular fruit in North America, and it’s not a fruit but an herb. The most famous landmark in Crystal City, Texas is a statue of Popeye the sailor man. Hungary has the highest suicide rate in Europe. Szeged is the paprika capital of the world. The world’s oldest consumer-protection law (1516) ensured the purity of beer. Benjamin Franklin said, “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” A soda jerk (a vocation that I pursued during my undergraduate years)is so called because of the motion he made when dispensing the carbonated water. The most common kind of malnutrition in the world is iron deficiency. In Leonardo da Vinci’s painting, “The Last Supper,” an overturned salt container in front of Judas, foreshadows his betrayal of Jesus. Botulism derives from the Latin word for sausage. Half a glass of botulinum toxin can kill the world’s entire population. The madness of England’s George III was due to porphyria, an inherited condition often characterized by purple urine. In 1930 Dwight D. Eisenhower was assigned to search for an alternative source for rubber. Sodium azide, used in airbags, is more toxic than potassium cyanide. Little Miss Muffet was a real person, the daughter of a 16th-century physician who kept spiders because he liked them to decorate his rooms with spider webs. Spiders annually eat a quantity of insects equal in weight to the total human population. If a spider is high on marijuana, it loses the pattern of its web and finally abandons the task. Peanut butter was developed by a St. Louis physician (And I’ve gone through life thinking that it was invented by George Washington Carver).
Schwarcz has a way with words and an amazing talent for creating vivid images to elucidate scientific facts and concepts. As a case in point consider this analogy:
Treatment [of an unsaturated vegetable oil] with hydrogen gas allows some hydrogen atoms to be inserted into the molecule. Unfortunately, not only does this process make the fat more saturated, but it also converts some of the unsaturated fat molecules into a slightly different, although still unsaturated, form. These so-called trans-fatty acids have had the “molecular kink” taken out of them, and their long straight chains can now cluster together, behaving like the infamous saturated fats we use in cookies and fried foods (pp 117-118).
Numerous examples of Schwarcz’s sly humor abound. Three will suffice: “Henny Youngman, whom some would call a comedian, once remarked that when he read about the evils of drinking he gave up reading” (p 91). “And, as far as concerns about Alzheimer’s disease go, I’ve been cooking with aluminum pots all my life, and I can’t remember experiencing any problems” (p 176). “[Zinc sulfide] can be used for all sorts of glow-in-the-dark objects—maybe even toilet seats to make those nocturnal visits easier” (p 232).
In my review of Schwarcz’s previous book in this series, I reluctantly took him to task for the excessive number of small errors. I’m pleased to report that he has made considerable progress in this regard: “me and Betty Martini” for “Betty Martini and me” (pp 48–49); “like” (preposition) for “as” (conjunction) (admittedly, a distinction today “more honoured in the breach than the observance,” p 59); “agrobacterium” for “Agrobacterium” and “streptomyces” for “Streptomyces” (In the Linnean binomial system the first letter of the genus is capitalized, pp 105 and 192, respectively); “Da Vinci” for “da Vinci” (pp 128 and 267); “their” for “his or her” (“everyone” is singular, p 129); “phosphorous” for “phosphorus” (pp 170 and 171); “most” (adjective) for “almost” (adverb) (p 173); “Encyclopedia” for “Encyclopædia” (Britannica, pp 181 and 235); “South East” for “Southeast” (p 187); “Pieta” for “Pietà” (pp 193 and 197); “electro” for “elektron” (Greek, p 212); “saltpeter” (KNO3) for “Chile saltpeter” (NaNO3) (p 228); and “metal” for “nonmetal” (phosphorus, p 237). Of course, none of these peccadillos should prevent you from enjoying this delightful volume.
In my liberal use of quotes I’ve tried to give you a glimpse not only of the content but also of the flavor of this unusual book. Schwarcz’s explanations for a variety of common phenomena lucidly show the reader how the scientific method operates. In the essay titled “Yes, Scientists Are Allowed to Change Their Minds” he discloses a truth well known to us scientists but not to the general public: “Science rarely gives us conclusive answers. It is an ongoing process that attempts to remain in step with the latest research” (p 19). Similarly, his balanced treatment of risk versus benefit, for example, “Progress always comes at a cost, but if we fear the unknown, we will never get anywhere. Nothing in life is risk-free” (p 111), offers an effective and practical antidote for the current epidemic of chemophobia and anti-scientific attitudes that permeate our current society. I heartily recommend this witty, entertaining, enlightening, and modestly priced book to scientists, chemists, educators, and anyone interested in the multifaceted ways in which science impacts our everyday lives.
Those enamored with Dr. Joe’s approach to science, health, and food may be interested in two more of his books: The Healing Power of Vitamins, Minerals, and Herbs (Reader’s Digest: Montréal, 1999) and Foods That Harm and Foods That Heal (Reader’s Digest; Montréal, 1997, 2004).
George B. Kauffman
California State University, Fresno, firstname.lastname@example.org
Newton’s Darkness: Two Dramatic Views. By Carl Djerassi and David Pinner. Imperial College Press: 57 Shelton St., Covent Garden, London WC2H 9HE, 2003; Distributed by World Scientific Publishing Co., Pte., Ltd.: 5 Toh Luck Link, Singapore 596224; Suite 202, 1060 Main St., River Edge, NJ 07661. 184 pp, 15.2 ´ 22.5 cm, hardcover. $24.00; £18.00. ISBN 1-86094-389-6; paperback. $16.00; £12.00. ISBN 1-86094-390-X.
Almost every poll of the public’s choice for the second millennium’s most important persons has included the name of the physicist and mathematician Isaac Newton (1642–1727). The results of a poll published in the London Sunday Times Magazine on September 12, 1999 ranked Sir Isaac first, even above Shakespeare, Leonardo da Vinci, Darwin, and other luminaries. The culminating figure of the 17th-century’s scientific revolution, he is usually considered the founder of modern science and the greatest scientist ever. (Actually, the term “natural philosopher” was used until the 19th century.) His work led to the age of the Enlightenment , but
revisionist historians contend that he did not belong to it either as a person or as an intellect.
In optics , Newton’s discovery of the composition of white light by means of a prism integrated the phenomena of colors into the science of light and established the foundations of modern physical optics. In mechanics, his three laws of motion—the basic principles of modern physics—resulted in his formulation of the law of universal gravitation. In mathematics, he discovered the infinitesimal calculus, which he called “the method of fluxions.” His Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica , colloquially called Principia, first published in 1686, is one of the most significant single works in the history of modern science. Recently, revisionist historians have debunked some of the hagiography surrounding Newton, who spent more time on alchemy and mystical theology—more than a million words on each of these endeavors—than on “scientific” pursuits . Because of his religious convictions, the Arian belief that God and Christ are not of one substance, were considered heretical by the Anglican Church, he kept them secret. All these aspects of his work are examined in the plays under review here.
Understandably then, Newton is among the most thoroughly studied persons of all time, and there is no lack of book-length biographies  or evaluations of his work and thought . When I “googled” him on the Internet, I obtained about538,000 results. In 1992 the Isaac Newton Institute for Mathematical Sciences was established as “an international research institute running a series of visitor programmes across the spectrum of the Mathematical Sciences” , and in 1998 the Newton Project was created “to make available in electronic form facsimiles and transcriptions of Newton’s manuscripts and to display their original connections, along with full documentation relating to Newton’s reading such as written notes and annotations” . Yet all these efforts are couched in the standard format of documentary prose because their didactic purpose is to transmit historical and scientific information. In sharp contrast, Newton’s Darkness, consisting of “two historically grounded plays dealing with two of the bitterest struggles in the history of science,” uses the medium of theater to illuminate the darker aspects of Newton’s personality.
Numerous plays with scientific themes have been written recently—more than 20 in the last five years. The most popular of these is Michael Frayn’s 2000 Tony-winning Copenhagen (1998), reenacting Werner Heisenberg’s 1941 visit to his mentor and friend Niels Bohr in Nazi-occupied Denmark. Yet, plays involving science or scientists have a long history [9, 10], going as far back as Christopher Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus (1604), about a scientist who strikes a bargain with the Devil, and Ben Jonson’s The Alchemist (1610), lampooning the venerable pseudoscience that was the ancestor of our own chemistry. Recent “science plays” have focused on physics, possibly because of its involvement with the nuclear bomb. Pinner and Djerassi have now added two additional contributions to this genre.
In opposition to the scientific genius whom Alexander Pope credited with shedding light on Nature:
Nature, and Nature’s laws lay hid in night,
God said, “Let Newton be!” And all was light ,
Pinner and Djerassi point out that much of Newton’s personality was dark and morally flawed. Adjectives that have been used to describe him include “remote, lonely, secretive, introverted, melancholic, humorless, puritanical, cruel, vindictive, and perhaps worst of all, unforgiving” (p 2). Even one of Newton’s most famous quotations, many of which appear in the dialogue of their plays, “If I have seen further it is by standing on ye sholders [sic] of Giants,” in a letter addressed to Robert Hooke, one of his bitterest enemies and usually cited as evidence of his modesty, can be interpreted as the “ultimate poisonous lacing” (p 2). (Hooke’s stature was dwarfish.)
Born on Christmas day 1642, Newton was abandoned by his mother, which left him intensely introverted and distrustful of women (He never married.) and arrogantly puritanical. In 1663 John Wickins (1640–1727), the first of two men involved in Newton’s repressed homosexual life (His Puritanism prevented him from indulging in physical intimacy.), began to room with him at Trinity College, Cambridge University, where for the next two decades the pair dabbled in alchemical experiments, which, like his religion, became part of his obsessively secret life.
Newton’s character trait that is central to both plays is his obsessive competitiveness, displayed in three of his best known conflicts, viz., with (1) physicist Robert Hooke (1635–1703), the subject of Newton’s Hooke; (2) Astronomer Royal John Flamsteed (1646–1719); and (3) German mathematician Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646–1716), fought largely through surrogates, the subject of Calculus.
In his 1957 presidential address to the American Sociological Association, Robert K. Merton, universally acknowledged as the founder of the sociology of science and the author of a critically acclaimed book on Newton, On the Shoulders of Giants , pointed out that inasmuch as recognition for originality is the primary reward that scientists receive for their labors, priority disputes among scientists, far from being unusual, are and should be frequent [13, 14]. They are caused by what he called “multiple discoveries,” that is, the simultaneous discoveries of the same or similar things by two or more scientists working more or less independently [15, 16], which indicate that the institution of science is operating normally and productively. Similarly, the late historian of chemistry Aaron J. Ihde argued against the cult of the unique genius in science, the so-called “hero” concept of history, championed by Thomas Carlyle . Ihde contended that the interlocking nature of scientific facts and theories makes their eventual discovery almost certain or inevitable, resulting in simultaneous discoveries .
The first of the two plays comprising Newton’s Darkness is Newton’s Hooke, the work of English playwright and director David Pinner, who was trained as an actor at Britain’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. He has played leading roles in English theaters and television, is the author of three novels, and has had 18 plays produced and 10 plays published, many of which were broadcast on BBC radio as well as BBC and commercial television. He has directed many plays both in the UK and the USA. For the past decade he has been Visiting Associate Professor of Drama at Colgate University, and he has recently completed a musical on Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels titled Marx and Sparks. He wrote Newton’s Hooke in close collaboration with his son, Dickon, a physicist, who suggested that he write a play about the two scientists .
In 1672 the 30-year-old Newton published his “Theory of Light and Colours” in the Royal Society’s Transactions. Hooke, the society’s 37-year-old Curator of Experiments, dismissed the theory in a letter, resulting in a priority battle over optics and celestial mechanics between England’s two greatest natural philosophers, which lasted for more than three decades, ending only with Hooke’s death in 1703 . Newton threatened to leave the Royal Society and did not publish any of his work for two decades until the appearance of his Principia .
Although Hooke’s childhood was as traumatic as Newton’s, their personalities could not have been more different. Unlike the Puritan, secretive, paranoid Cambridge recluse, Hooke was a carefree and gregarious bon vivant, who had numerous affairs with women, including an incestuous relationship with his young niece, Grace Hooke (1650–?), who was his housekeeper for several years. Although Hooke was known as “London’s Leonardo”  because of his Renaissance-like genius (He was also an artist and architect.), Newton regarded him as a mere profligate dilettante. Hooke accused Newton of using passages of Hooke’s Micrographia to demonstrate Newton’s opposing theory of light. Not all the consequences of their feud were negative; one of Hooke’s challenges to Newton led Newton to his theory of universal gravitation.
Two years after the publication of his Principia, the 47-year-old Newton met the love of his life, the 25-year-old Swiss mathematician Nicolas Fatio du Duillier (1664–1753), with whom he pursued alchemical experiments and whom Newton’s enemies dubbed “Newton’s ape” . As was the case with Wickins, their relationship was probably never consummated, but when Fatio carelessly mailed him alchemical secrets, the paranoid Newton became terrified that his enemies would learn of his obsession with alchemy and with his unacceptable religious beliefs. He broke up with Fatio, a rupture believed to have caused Newton’s nervous breakdown in the autumn of 1693. With the help of his friend Charles Montagu (1642–1715), the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Newton became Warden (1696) and then Master (1699) of the Royal Mint, where he set about the recoinage of English money. He left Cambridge and the world of science and alchemy for London, where he transformed himself from an academic recluse to a figure in society, with his beautiful niece Catherine Barton (1679–?) serving as his housekeeper and confidante.
After Hooke died, Newton, who, because of Hooke’s criticism of his “Theory of Light and Colours” had remained silent for more than three decades, published his second magnum opus, his four-volume Opticks, in 1704 . He also pursued his vendetta beyond the grave; in his capacity as President of the Royal Society, he arranged for “the mysterious loss of the only existing portrait of Hooke, along with many instruments created by Hooke, never to be seen again” (p 9). Even after he had attained both wealth and prestige and was knighted by Queen Anne in 1705, he continued to wreak vengeance on fellow scientists and to send counterfeiters to the gallows. All these events and the persons involved in them are dealt with in a masterly manner in Pinner’s fascinating play, the action of which takes place in Cambridge and London, mostly in Newton’s and Hooke’s rooms during the period 1665–1703.
Calculus (Newton’s Whores)
The second and shorter play comprising Newton’s Darkness, Calculus (Newton’s Whores), is the work of Carl Djerassi , Professor Emeritus of Chemistry at Stanford University and one of the few American scientists to receive both the National Medal of Science (1973, for the first oral contraceptive) and the National Medal of Technology (1993, for promoting new approaches to insect control). He was inducted into the Inventors Hall of Fame in 1978. The holder of 19 honorary degrees and the author of nine monographs and more than 1200 scientific articles, he is the recipient of numerous honors, including the Othmer Gold Medal (2000), as well as the first Wolf Prize in Chemistry, and the Priestley Medal (1992) and the Gold Medal (2004), the highest honors of the American Chemical Society and the American Institute of Chemists, respectively.
Djerassi has embarked on a highly successful career in creative writing, including a tetralogy of novels that exemplify what he calls “science-in-fiction” to differentiate it from the better-known science fiction. In 1998 he undertook a projected trilogy of plays to explore a genre that he calls “science-in-theater.” His first play in this genre, An Immaculate Misconception [24a], dealt with ICSI—intracytoplasmic sperm injection—and it was translated into eight languages and published in book form in English, German, Spanish, and Swedish. Our review [24b] discussed this play as well as many of Djerassi’s other works in creative writing.
Djerassi’s second play, Oxygen, was coauthored with Roald Hoffmann, 1981 Nobel chemistry laureate and Frank H. T. Rhodes Professor of Humane Letters and Professor of Chemistry at Cornell University. It not only deviates from the current preoccupation with physics but also is the first “science play” written by two practicing scientists. In an unusual twist the play in book format appeared shortly before the world premiere, which took place at the Lyceum Theatre in San Diego, CA (April 2–7, 2001) concurrently with the 221st National Meeting of the American Chemical Society. It was translated into seven languages and has been published in English, German, Italian, and Korean .
The fictional premise of the play involved one of Djerassi’s favorite themes—the problem of priority, which also figures in Calculus (Newton’s Whores). To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first Nobel Prizes, the Nobel Foundation is awarding a “retro-Nobel” Prize for great discoveries that preceded the establishment of the prizes in 1901. The Chemistry Committee quickly decides to honor the discovery of oxygen, the gas that ushered in the Chemical Revolution, but thorny questions immediately surfaced: What is discovery? Why is it so important to be first? The three candidates for the prize were the English Unitarian clergyman and chemist Joseph Priestley (1733–1804), the Swedish apothecary and chemist Carl Wilhelm Scheele (1742–1786), and Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier (1743–1794), the French chemist, tax collector, economist, and public servant—the founder of modern chemistry, who explained the true nature of combustion, rusting, and animal respiration as well as the central role of oxygen.
Djerassi’s third and final installment of his science-in-theater trilogy, Calculus ,dealing with the infamous Newton–Leibniz priority struggle, opened at the Performing Arts Library and Museum in San Francisco, CA in April, 2003 . The Stanford University Dean for Undergraduate Education provided funds for two of Djerassi’s students to assist in long-term research on historical background for the play. Joshua Bushinsky provided crucial evidence on the 11 Royal Society fellows (“Newton’s whores”) who were members of the infamous committee appointed to adjudicate the Newton–Leibniz controversy, while Tonyanna Borkovi carried out research on Colley Cibber, John Vanbrugh, and other Restoration Period theater personalities who figure prominently in the play.
Five European academics offered crucial leads to the least-known character in Calculus, Louis Frederick Bonet, the King of Prussia’s Minister to England, enabling Djerassi to “construct a plausible motive for his puzzling role as foreign member of the Royal Society’s committee” (p 183). As they did in the case of Oxygen, dramaturge Alan Drury, formerly of BBC Radio’s Theatre Department, and writer and poet Diane Middlebrook, Djerassi’s wife (a fortunate choice because the women in the play have central roles), acted as counselors. Also, Robert K. Merton, Professor Emeritus of Sociology at Columbia University, provided Djerassi with valuable comments before his death on February 23, 2003 , a few months before the American premiere of the play.
The decades-long priority struggle between Newton and Leibniz over the invention of the calculus, in which each protagonist accused the other of piracy, differs from Newton’s other feuds in that it transcended personal priority claims by involving competing nations—with the English supporting Newton and the Germans favoring Leibniz—and was conducted largely by surrogates instead of by the principals themselves. Unfortunately, the controversy delayed the acceptance of Newtonian science in continental Europe and dissuaded British mathematicians from sharing their results with continental colleagues for a century. Also, as he had done with Hooke, Newton pursued his vengeance beyond the grave; he removed any mention of Leibniz in the final revision of his Principia.
Because no unambiguous definition of scientific priority has been agreed upon, several questions arise. As Djerassi and Hoffmann had asked in Oxygen , so Djerassi and Pinner ask: Should it be assigned to the first discoverer, to the one who publishes first, or to the first person to understand the nature of the discovery? With regard to the calculus, Newton was first in conception, while Leibniz long predated the secretive Newton in terms of publication. In the words of science writer William J. Broad, the struggle was “fought for the most part by the throng of little squires that surrounded the two great knights” (p 11). Djerassi’s play highlights the activities of some of Newton’s “little squires.”
The first to accuse Leibniz of plagiarism was Newton’s most fawning disciple, Nicolas Fatio de Duillier (“Newton’s Ape”) , but his accusation was not pursued because of his previously mentioned association with alchemy and heretic religious views. In 1708 the Royal Society’s secretary, John Keill, formally repeated the plagiarism charge, which was published in the society’s Philosophical Transactions in 1710. Leibniz, who was a longtime foreign member of the society, demanded an official retraction, so Newton, who was the President, created a commission (“a Numerous Committee of Gentlemen of Several Nations”) of society fellows to adjudicate the matter. At a society meeting of April 24, 1712 a 51-page report with references to letters and documents primarily in the possession of Newton’s correspondent John Collins was read and later published under the title “commercium epistolicum collinii & aliorum” (exchange of letters from Collins and others) completely supporting Keill’s accusation:
And by these letters and papers it appeared…that Mr. Newton had the Method in or before the year 1669, and it did not appear…that Mr. Leibniz had it before the year 1677 (p 110).
Djerassi’s stage directions call for the projection of a one-page summary of this report on the curtain or other suitable surface before the play begins.
Because Newton, as President of the Royal Society, had indirectly appointed the committee in 1712, it is not surprising that the report was biased in his favor. but there is more of “Newton’s darkness” here. Although the composition of the committee that signed the report was unacknowledged for more than a century, not only the names of the fellows but also the dates that they were appointed are now known: astronomer Edmond Halley, of comet fame; physician and writer John Arbuthnot; William Burnet; Abraham Hill; John Machin; and William Jones (all appointed on March 6); Francis Robartes, the Earl of Radnor (March 20); Louis Frederick Bonet, the King of Prussia’s Minister in London (March 27); and Francis Aston and mathematicians Brook Taylor and Abraham de Moivre (April 17).
Despite the claim that the committee was composed of “Gentlemen of Several Nations,” only Bonet and de Moivre could be considered foreigners. From the appointment dates it is obviously impossible that the last three members could have been involved in a long, complex report officially presented only a week later. Actually, Newton himself—not any of the 11 fellows—had written the report! The question of why these fellows (The Swiss mathematician Johann Bernoulli called them “Newton’s toadies,” p 155.) allowed themselves to have been so manipulated by Newton is considered in Calculus, the action of which takes place in London, mostly in a salon or a sitting room during the years 1712–1731.
Calculus offers speculative insight into the scandal through the personalities of three committee members—Arbuthnot, Bonet, and de Moivre—with most of the biographical references based on historical records. In the play within a play “about Newton’s malfeasance” (p 173) that concludes Act 1 (Act 1, Scene 6; pp 139–142), a device used earlier to great effect by Djerassi and Roald Hoffmann in Oxygen, playwrights Colley Cibber (1671–1757) and Sir John Vanbrugh (1664–1726) act the roles of Leibniz and Newton, respectively. Although the meeting between Cibber and Vanbrugh is fictional, both are historical characters whose plays form an important part of Restoration drama.
In keeping with Djerassi’s feminist concerns (He calls himself the “Mother [not the Father] of the Pill” .), strong, intelligent women—Lady Brasenose, a London salonnière, and Margaret Arbuthnot (?–1730), John Arbuthnot’s wife, play prominent roles in his story. The latter, in an exchange with Bonet, waxes philosophical on Newton’s flaws and those of humankind in general:
Speculating about the existence of evil in a world created by a good God does not seem idle to me. Theodicy would claim that as Man cannot be absolutely perfect, Man’s knowledge and power is limited. Thus we are not only liable to wrong action, but it is unavoidable or we would have absolutely perfect action from a less than absolutely perfect creature. How otherwise explain that God allowed Newton’s manipulations? Or do you attribute absolute perfection to Sir Isaac? (p 165).
Pinner and Djerassi have tried to show that “a scientist’s ethics must not be divorced from scientific accomplishments” (p 13), and we think that they have admirably succeeded in attaining their goal. John Arbuthnot (1667–1735), the Scottish physician to England’s Queen Anne and a member of the anonymous Royal Society Commission of 1712, asks Colley Cibber (1671–1757), English playwright, architect, theater manager, British Poet Laureate (1730), and Arbuthnot’s literary enemy:
We need unsullied heroes…and not just military ones. What purpose is served by showing that England’s greatest natural philosopher is flawed…like other mortals? Consider the laws of motion and of gravitation…of light and color…his work on celestial mechanics. Calculus was not needed for any of them. Even without the calculus, Newton would be our greatest (p 171).
Greatest natural philosopher…or paragon of probity? Why not take him for what he was: a tainted hero. Inventor of the calculus? Yes! But also corruptor of a moral calculus. And what about Leibniz…does he not deserve some defense? (p 171).
This exchange takes place in Act 2, Scene 10 (pp 169–178), which concludes the published version of Calculus, but, as Act 1, Scene 1, it opens the version of the play on Djerassi’s Web site .
Pinner and Djerassi explain why they chose the theatrical form to explore the darker side of Newton’s complex character:
Since we chose to concentrate on the human aspects of Newton’s persona, we felt that his personality also merited illumination through the most human form of discourse, namely dialog (p 13) .
Pinner and Djerassi’s plays underscore the fact that time has not changed human beings—their motivations; their emotions; desire for recognition, power, and financial compensation; concern with reputation and awards; and their social institutions. The ethical issues of ambition, competition, discovery, and priority addressed in Newton’s Darkness are as timely today as they were in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. The plots, based in part on actual history of science, are complex and absorbing, and the characters, although flawed, are interesting human beings and ring true to their historical counterparts. The main themes that we have described above are skillfully and consistently woven throughout the dialogue, which, although often didactic, is never “stuffy.”
These two theatrical efforts should help bridge the gap between C.P. Snow’s “two cultures”  by giving a general audience an insightful and accurate view of how scientists act and how science advances—a picture often at odds with the public’s stereotyped view of scientists as cold, unemotional, ultrarational, unselfish “do-gooders,” who are driven solely by disinterested curiosity.
In addition totheatergoers, bothplaysshould appeal to students and general readers interested in biography and the history of science and of literature. Our only caveat is that readers will better appreciate them if they read the notes before reading the plays. We give Newton’s Darkness, two enjoyable, engrossing, and above all, provocative and thought-provoking plays, an enthusiastictwo thumbs up.
References and Notes
1. Beer, P., Ed. Newton and the Enlightenment; Proceedings of an International Symposium, Caligari, Italy, 3–5 October 1977. Vistas Astron. 1978, 22, 367–557.
2. Newton, I. Opticks; Dover Publications: New York, 1990 (based on the 4th edition of 1730).
3. Newton, I. The Principia, Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy; Cohen, I. B.; Whitman, A., Translators; University of California Press: Berkeley, CA, 1999.
4. Dobbs, B. J. T. The Foundations of Newton’s Alchemy or “The Hunting of the Greene Lyon”; Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, England, 1975 and 1983; Dobbs, B. J. T. The Janus Faces of Genius; Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, England, 1991; Manuel, F. A. The Religion of Isaac Newton; Clarendon Press: Oxford, England, 1974.
5. Among the best of these are: Andrade, E. N. da Costa. Sir Isaac Newton: His Life and Work; Max Parris: London, 1950; Collins: London; Doubleday: New York, 1958; Greenwood: Westport, CT, 1979; Westfall, R. S. Never at Rest: A Biography of Isaac Newton; Harvard University Press: Cambridge, MA, 1980, paperback, 1993; condensed as The Life of Isaac Newton; Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, England, 1994;
6. Thackray, A. Atoms and Powers: An Essay on Newtonian Matter-Theory and the Development of Chemistry; Harvard University Press: Cambridge, MA, 1970; Cohen, I. B. The Newtonian Revolution: With Illustrations of the Transformation of Scientific Ideas; Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, England, 1980.
7. The Newton Project. http://www.newtonproject.ic.ac.uk (accessed Sept 2004).
8. Isaac Newton Resources. http://www.newton.cam.ac.uk/newton.html (accessed Sept 2004).
9. Lustig, H.; Shepherd-Bard, K. Science as Theater. Am. Scientist 2002, 90, 550–555.
10. For an annotated list of “science plays” with capsule summaries and bibliographical information, along with links to Internet resources for further exploration of “Science as Theater” access http://www.americanscientist.org/articles/02articles/lustig.html (accessed Sept 2004). For the difference between “science-in-theater,” in which all the science is accurate (analogous to “science-in-fiction” and “science plays,” in which the author may take liberties with the science (analogous to science fiction) see Djerassi, C. Contemporary “Science-in-Theatre”: a rare genre (Daniel Rosen Memorial Lecture). Interdisciplinary Science Reviews Autumn 2002, 27, 193–201 (http://www.djerassi.com/science-in-theater; This special issue was dedicated entirely to science and theater).
11. Pope, A. Epitaph on Newton. In Boynton, H. W., Ed. The Complete Poetical Works of Alexander Pope; Houghton, Mifflin: Boston, MA; New York, 1902.
12. Merton, Robert K. On the Shoulders of Giants: A Shandean Postscript: The Post-Italianate Edition; University of Chicago Press: Chicago, IL, 1993.
13. Merton, R. K. The Sociology of Science: Theoretical and Empirical Investigations; University of Chicago Press: Chicago, IL; London, England, 1973.
14. Merton, R. K. Priorities in Scientific Discovery. Am. Sociolog. Rev. 1957, 6, 635–659; reprinted in Merton, R. K. The Sociology of Science: Theoretical and Empirical Investigations; University of Chicago Press: Chicago, IL; London, England, 1973; pp 286–324.
15. Gieryn, T. F. Robert K. Merton, 1910–2003. Isis 2004, 95, 91–94.
16. Merton, R. K. Singletons and Multiples in Scientific Discovery. Proc. Am. Phil. Soc. 1961, 5, 470–486; reprinted in Merton, R. K. The Sociology of Science: Theoretical and Empirical Investigations; University of Chicago Press: Chicago, IL; London, England, 1973; pp 343–370.
17. Carlyle, T. On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and the Heroic in History; University of California Press: Berkeley, CA, 1993.
18. Ihde, A. J. The Inevitability of Scientific Discovery. Sci. Monthly 1948, 67, 427–429.
19. For information about Pinner’s writing log onto http://groups.colgate.edu/klatsch/archiv/pinner_folder/dphpg3.html (accessed Sept 2004).
20. Hooke could also be contentious. He was described as a “universal claimant” because “there was scarcely a discovery in his time which he did not conceive himself to claim” . Not only did he contest priority with Newton but he also claimed priority over Christiaan Huygens for the invention of the spiral-spring balance for regulating watches to eliminate the effect of gravity.
21. Bennett, J.; Cooper, M.; Hunter, M.; Jardine, L. London’s Leonardo: The Life and Work of Robert Hooke; Oxford University Press: New York, 2003.
22. Domson, C. A. Nicolas Fatio de Duillier and the Prophets of London; Arno: New York, 1981.
23. Kauffman, G. B.; Kauffman, L. M. The Steroid King. The World & I 1992, 7 (7) (July), 312–319.
24. (a) Djerassi, C. An Immaculate Misconception: Sex in an Age of Mechanical Reproduction; Imperial College Press: London, 2000; (b) Kauffman, G. B.; Kauffman, L. M. Chem. Educator 2002, 7, 245–248; DOI 10.1333/s00897020589a.
25. Djerassi, C.; Hoffmann, R. Oxygen: A Play in Two Acts; Wiley-VCH: Weinheim, Germany; New York, 2001. For our review see Kauffman, G. B.; Kauffman, L. M. Chem. Educator 2003, 8, 164–168; DOI 10.1333/s00897030680a.
26. http://www.djerassi.com/calculus (accessed Sept 2004).
27. Djerassi’s fourth play, Ego, described as a “a dark comedy about a singular obsession,” directed by Frances McCain and presented by PlayBrokers with the Playwright’s Foundation, premiered as a reading on February 10, 2003 at the ODC Theatre in San Francisco, CA 94110 followed by a discussion with the author, the actors, and the director. Djerassi describes this effort as “my first experiment in ‘non-scientific’ play writing” (email to G. B. Kauffman, January 26, 2003).
28. Kauffman, G. B.; Kauffman, L. M. “Mother” of the pill followed a winding road. The Fresno Bee, August 5, 2000, p B7.
29. Another example of this approach also deals with the Newton–Leibniz controversy: Stengers, I. La guerre des science aura-t-elle lieu?; Le Seuil: Paris, 2001.
30. Snow, C. P. The Two Cultures and a Second Look; Cambridge University Press: London, 1969.
George B. Kauffman and Laurie M. Kauffman
California State University, Fresno, email@example.com
Collected Works of Sir Humphry Davy. John Davy, Editor; Introduction by David M. Knight. Thoemmes Press: 11 Great George St., Bristol BS1 5RR, UK; 22883 Quicksilver Drive, Sterling, VA 20166, 2001. http://www.thoemmes.com. 9 volumes, illustrations, figures, tables. 3885 pp, hardcover, 14.3 ´ 22.2 cm. $1275.00; £795.00. ISBN 1-85506-907-5. In the USA or Canada order from Continuum International Publishing Group, P.O. Box 1321, Harrisburg, PA 17105, USA; Phone: (800) 877-0012; FAX: (717) 541-8128; email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Worldwide order from Jill Caldicott, Orca Book Services, Stanley House, 3 Fleets Lane Poole, Dorset BH15 3AJ, UK; Phone: 01202 665432; FAX: 01202 666219; email: email@example.com.
In my acceptance address for the American Chemical Society’s George C. Pimentel Award in Chemical Education, I discussed the persons and events shaping my career, spending considerable time in tribute to my first scientific hero—Humphry Davy (1778–1829), a true romantic and one of the most fascinating and exemplary chemists of all time . The rags-to-riches saga of this poor Cornish youth and his rapid rise to the professorship of the Royal Institution; popular science lecturer par excellence; darling of London society (especially among the fair sex); recipient at the age of 33 of a knighthood from the Prince Regent; and president of the Royal Society, the highest position in British science, at the age of 41, made an indelible impression on my adolescent mind. What a role model for a young person determined upon devoting himself to “the central science”! Thus, I have long had a personal and professional interest in the man who successfully aspired to become the Newton of his day.
Only two years after Davy’s death, his first biography—by John Ayrton Paris—who, like others since, saw social mobility as the key to Davy’s life, appeared . Not content with this effort, which T. E. Thorpe  considered inaccurate, disingenuous, extravagant, and insincere, Davy’s younger brother, John (1780–1868), who spent some time with Humphry in London, indignantly wrote his own biography , which Thorpe called partial, albeit candid, sober, and direct and stated that it frequently contradicted Paris’ biography.
Since then, a number of biographies of Davy have appeared, including a critically acclaimed one  by David M. Knight, Professor Emeritus of the History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Durham, a chemist himself, and a longtime authority on Davy, who recently assigned Davy a prominent role in popularizing chemistry in his Edelstein Award address at the 226th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society held in New York on September 9, 2003 . The most recent book-length account of Davy and his work was written by another longtime Davy scholar, June Z. Fullmer . Her account of Davy’s first 22 years proved to be her swan song, for she died on January 31, 2000 at the age of 79 after putting the finishing touches on the manuscript.
As a labor of love, John Davy edited his brother’s collected works  as a nine-volume work , the first volume of which was an abridgement of his earlier biography . Long out-of-print and rare, the collection has now been reprinted as a facsimile edition with an introduction by Knight . The contents of the collection are as follows:
· Volume 1. “Introduction” by David M. Knight (pp v–xiv) ; “Memoirs of His Life, Chapters I-VI” (475 pp).
· Volume 2. “Early Miscellaneous Papers, from 1799 to 1805. With an Introductory Lecture and Outlines of Lectures on Chemistry, Delivered in 1802 and 1804” (465 pp, one plate).
· Volume 3. “Researches, Chemical and Philosophical, Chiefly Concerning Nitrous Oxide, or Dephlogisticated Nitrous Air, and Its Respiration” (343 pp, one plate, the shortest volume).
· Volume 4. “Elements of Chemical Philosophy: As Regards the Laws of Chemical Changes: Undecompounded Bodies and Their Primary Combinations” (376 pp, 13 plates).
· Volume 5. “Bakerian Lectures and Miscellaneous Papers from 1806 to 1815” (527 pp, 6 plates, the longest volume).
· Volume 6. “Miscellaneous Papers and Researches, Especially on the Safety Lamp, and Flame, and on the Protection of the Copper Sheathing of Ships, from 1815 to 1828” (364 pp, 12 plates).
· Volume 7. “Discourses Delivered before the Royal Society” (pp 1–168); and “Elements of Agricultural Chemistry, in a Course of Lectures for the Board of Agriculture, Delivered between 1802 and 1812, Part I: Lectures I–V” (pp 169–391, 10 plates).
· Volume 8. “Elements of Agricultural Chemistry, in a Course of Lectures for the Board of Agriculture, Delivered between 1802 and 1812, Part II: Lectures VI–VIII” (pp 1–152); “Miscellaneous Lectures and Extracts from Lectures” (pp 153–365).
· Volume 9. “Salmonia, or Days of Fly-Fishing; in a Series of Conversations: with Some Account of the Habits of Fishes Belonging to the Genus Salmo” (pp 1–205, 4 plates); “Consolations in Travel: Or the Last Days of a Philosopher” (pp 207–388).
Not only is Davy’s life succinctly surveyed in Knight’s introduction and described in detail in John Davy’s “Memoirs of His Life” (both in Volume 1), but all of his major contributions from his earliest days to his final years are contained in the subsequent volumes.
Born on December 17, 1778 in Penzance, Davy was the first of five children of an often-unemployed woodcarver, whose death when Humphry was 16 left the mother with debts that forced her to support the family by opening a millinery shop. Little in Davy’s plebian roots presaged his becoming “the most brilliant chemist of his age” or “one of the most respected and most disliked men of science ever.” He was largely self-taught, learning chemistry by reading Lavoisier’s Traité élémentaire de chimie in English translation. Apprenticed at sixteen to an apothecary-surgeon, he seemed destined to become a physician.
In 1798 Thomas Beddoes appointed Davy his assistant at his Pneumatic Institute at Clifton near Bristol, where the 20-year-old youth analyzed the oxides of nitrogen to provide John Dalton with the data to support his law of multiple proportions. In 1800 Davy’s first book, a study of the physiological effects of nitrous oxide (Volume 3) aroused considerable popular as well as scientific attention and made inhaling laughing gas a fashionable fad [11, 12]. He also published a paper, both speculative and experimental, on heat and light, agreeing with Rumford’s view that heat was a motion of particles rather than a weightless substance, “caloric,” as postulated by Lavoisier (Volume 2).
Davy became successively Assistant Lecturer in Chemistry and Laboratory Director (1801), Lecturer (1802), and Professor (1802) at the Royal Institution, which, supported by money paid to attend his public lectures, became Britain’s premier research institution. In his inaugural lecture of January 21, 1802 (Volume 2) he informed his opulent audience that science was vital to economic progress. His zeal and showmanship in popularizing his experimental discoveries in chemistry; electrochemistry, a term that he coined (As one of the founders of electrochemistry (Volume 2) and in a race with Swedish chemist Jöns Jacob Berzelius, he was the first to isolate potassium and sodium (1807) and barium, strontium, calcium, and magnesium (1808). (Volume 5)); agricultural chemistry (Volumes 7 and 8); geology (Volume 8); and catalysis brought him the patronage of influential people and made him “the first preacher of applied science.”
Davy’s inventions included the carbon arc light; miner’s safety lamp (Volume 6); and “cathodic protection” to prevent corrosion of the copper hulls of warships (Volume 6), a principle still in use today. He favored facts above theories and was skeptical of Dalton’s atomic theory. At a time when science as a career was most unusual, he became a professional scientist when only the Astronomer Royal could be so described. He achieved fame as a poet  as well as a chemist and natural philosopher (Volume 1). Among his friends were the Romantic bards Wordsworth, Byron, and Coleridge, who attended his lectures.
Davy was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (1802); one of its two Secretaries (1807); and in 1820, its President (reelected in 1826). (His elegant discourses and elegies to the society appear in Volume 7.) In 1805 he received the society’s Copley Medal for his research on tanning (Volume 7). In 1810 he demonstrated that “oxymuriatic acid” was an element, which he called chlorine, and that it formed a strong acid with hydrogen, thus demolishing Lavoisier’s view that oxygen is the essential element in acids. (The name is derived from the Greek, acid former.) (Volume 5).
On April 11, 1812, being a social climber, he followed “the classic route for the country boy making good in London;” he entered into a childless and unhappy marriage with the bluestocking widow and heiress Jane Apreece, formally marking his entrance into the upper classes of class-conscious Regency society, which was governed by patronage. In 1812 he published his Elements of Chemical Philosophy, dedicated to his bride (Volume 4). In 1813, at the pinnacle of his meteoric career, he resigned his professorship and began to travel about the Continent, accompanied by his wife, his assistant Michael Faraday, and two chests of apparatus to continue his experiments. In France he elucidated the true nature of iodine (Volume 5), and in Italy he carried out some of the earliest analyses of pigments used in ancient paintings (Volume 6) and ignited a diamond to prove that it was identical with graphite (Volume 5).
Davy’s last two books (both in Volume 9), which, together with his Elements of Agricultural Chemistry, were his most popular books with the public. Salmonia: or Days of Fly Fishing (1828), containing Davy’s drawings of fish, discusses not only his favorite hobby but also his philosophical and religious views, while Consolations in Travel, or the Last Days of a Philosopher, published posthumously in 1830, consists of six dialogues presenting his views of the history of mankind and the existence of reincarnation and immortality. After 1820 his health deteriorated, and he died on May 28, 1829 in Geneva. His relatively short life was motivated by his urge to understand nature and to apply this knowledge to useful purposes. Unfortunately, he left no school of disciples to continue his work.
The Collected Works of Sir Humphry Davy reflects the scientific work and astonishing career of the greatest creative scientist in Regency Britain and one of chemistry’s brightest luminaries, which was fueled by philosophical questions on the nature of life, matter, God, thought, and immortality. It includes newly added rare illustrations and portraits not contained in the original works. It provides valuable source material for all historians of chemistry and of science, especially those concerned with the early nineteenth century, a crucial period when science was developing into a profession with individual specialties and Britain was supplanting France as a scientific center.
References and Notes
1. Kauffman, G. B. Aus Meinem Leben: Adventures and Travels of a Chemical Educator-Historian-Researcher. Chemistry Education 1995 (January-March), 11 (3), 5–17.
2. Paris, J. A. The Life of Sir Humphry Davy, Bart., L.L.D., late President of the Royal Society; Henry Colburn and Richard Bentley: London, 1831.
3. Thorpe, T. E. Humphry Davy: Poet and Philosopher; Cassell & Co.: London, 1896.
4. Davy, J. Memoirs of the Life of Sir Humphry Davy, 2 vols.; Longman Rees: London, 1836.
5. Knight, D. M. Humphry Davy: Science and Power; Blackwell Publishers: Cambridge, MA, 1992; 2nd ed., Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, England, 1998. For reviews see Kauffman, G. B. Chem. Eng. News 1993 (Aug 2), 71 (31), 32–33 and Chem. & Ind., 1999 (Mar 1), 5, 186–187.
6. Knight, D. M. The 2003 Edelstein Award Address: Making Chemistry Popular. Bull. Hist. Chem. 2004, 29, 1–8.
7. Fullmer, J. Z. Young Humphry Davy: The Making of an Experimental Chemist; American Philosophical Society: Philadelphia, PA, 2000. For a review, see Kauffman, G. B. Chem. Educator 2002, 7, 401–403; DOI 10.1333/s00897020644a.
8. For a complete bibliography of Davy’s works see Fullmer, J. Z. Sir Humphry Davy’s Published Works; Harvard University Press: Cambridge, MA, 1969.
9. The Collected Works of Sir Humphry Davy, Bart. LL.D. F.R.S., Foreign Associate of the Institute of France, etc., Edited by His Brother, John Davy, M.D. F.R.S.; Smith, Elder and Co.: London; Vols. 1–3, 1839; Vols. 4–9, 1840.
10. Knight’s introduction is a revised version of his article, Humphry Davy: Science and Social Mobility. Endeavour 2000, 24, 165–169.
11. Flanagan, R.; Ramsey, J. Davy’s intoxicating effects. Chem. Br. 2000 (Oct), 36 (10), 35–36.
12. For a discussion of James Gillray’s famous caricature of a lecture at the Royal Institution involving the administration of nitrous oxide and depicting Davy with a bellows see Kauffman, G. B.; Mattson, B.; Swanson, R. P. Celebrating Chemistry and Art: Bicentennial of a Famous Caricature. CHEM 13 NEWS, 2002 (Jan), 299, 20–22. For a color version of the caricature and information on the preparation of N2O log onto http://mattson.creighton.edu/N2O (accessed Sept 2004).
13. Fullmer, J. Z. The Poetry of Sir Humphry Davy. Chymia 1960, 6, 102–126.
George B. Kauffman
California State University, Fresno, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Chemcraft Story: The Legacy of Harold Porter. By John Tyler. St. Johann Press: P.O. Box 241, Haworth, NJ 07641, 2003. Phone: (201) 387-1529; FAX: (201) 501-0698. Illustrations. ix + 130 pp, paperbound, 21.1 ´ 27.2 cm. $25.00 (shipping $3.00). ISBN 1-878282-27-41.
At the age of six, I became intrigued with the fascinating world of chemicals, and I informed any of my relatives who would listen of my desire for a chemistry set .
With this sentence I began my paean to my first chemistry set. I am far from alone in tracing my interest in chemistry to a set. Numerous chemists and scientists of my generation were inspired to a career in chemistry or science in the same manner [2–7].
One of those who grew up with these sets is John Tyler (born in 1935), a resident of Layton, NJ, who taught science at the elementary school and university levels for 33 years. Currently the owner of Colophon Books, Inc. of Ithaca, NY, a firm dealing in antiquarian books and scientific instruments, he was planning a trip to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania and noticed from a map (Figure 6, p 9) that it was close to Hagerstown, Maryland, the home of the Porter Chemical Company, the manufacturer of the chemistry and microscope sets in his collection. With the help and constructive criticism of John Porter, son of Harold Mitchell Porter (1893–1963), the founder of the Porter Chemical Company; John Frye, the Washington County [MD] librarian; the Washington County Historical Society; and other local sources of information, Tyler has written the story of the Porter family, their company, and the town of Hagerstown that “had never been shared with the world outside of Hagerstown” (p vii). He wrote the book “for those generations of scientists who got their start, as the author did, with a science kit from the Porter Chemical Company” (p ix).
On November 12, 1914, Harold M. Porter, age 22, and his older brother John J. Porter, age 35, both of Cincinnati, Ohio, signed a partnership (Figure 3, p 4) to manufacture and sell “chemical preparations and other materials and articles.” In March 1915, Harold arrived in Hagerstown, to which his brother and sister-in-law, Edith, had moved. The brothers realized that
many visually startling reactions could be performed using relatively harmless chemical compounds, and that these reactions did not require much heat. Thus, they reasoned, these experiments could be done by children, with proper instruction, and would pose minimal safety risks (pp 1–2).
Educational scientific toys were then a novel but risky concept that might not sell. With Harold in charge of marketing their brainchild, smaller and larger chemistry sets selling for 75¢ and $1.00, respectively—considerable sums at a time when the average worker earned $7 to $10 per week—were manufactured along with instruction books and offered for sale in Woodward and Lathrop, Washington, DC’s venerable department store. From such humble beginnings, the chemistry set was born, and the rest, as they say, is history.
When the Porter Chemical Company began marketing its early Chemcraft sets, Alfred Carlton Gilbert  had already established his company as the maker of Erector construction sets, but when he noted the Porters’ success, he added a “chemical magic” kit to his line. It was not until 1922, however, that he started to market a “serious” chemistry set, by which time Chemcraft had become the established leader of chemistry sets. The Porters began to expand their line into other areas with microscope (1934) (Figures 7 and 8, pp 14–15), mineralogy (1937) (Figure 9, p 16), “Electro-Physics” (1937) (Figure 10, p 17), “G-Man’s Science” (1937) (Figure 11, p 18), and polaroid (polariscope) (1937) kits (Figure 12, p 19).
During World War II, when the military draft removed many men from the work force, Porter Chemical had several advantages over its larger rival. Porter was still family-owned (On occasional hot summer days, the plant would shut down for the day, and buses would take the entire staff to the beach.) and could adapt to change more rapidly than Gilbert, which had been incorporated in 1929 and had to contend with stockholders’ wishes. Furthermore, Porter’s production staff was composed mostly of local housewives, whereas Gilbert’s work force suffered attrition from the departure of draft-age males. Porter began to develop product lines that could be manufactured from available, noncritical materials such as pasteboard, pressed-wood, and fabric scraps, such as ready-to-fly model airplanes (Figures 14 and 15, pp 23–24). Other new lines were “Plantcraft” hydroponics kits (Figure 16, p 25) that capitalized on the interest in home “victory gardens” and an art set called “Saltcraft” (Figure 17, p 26).
In 1947 Porter introduced American children to the atomic age by including uranium ore and a spintharoscope in three of its chemistry sets. In 1955 Porter ran its first national scholarship contest, encouraging young future scientists by asking them to write an essay, “Why I want to be a scientist,” with a $1000 U.S. savings bond to be used for college tuition as the prize (Figure 24, p 36 shows two contest winners). The contest was continued through the early 1960s after Porter merged with the Lionel Corporation of model train fame in May 1961.
During the 1950s after the advent of Sputnik, when the federal government subsidized expanded science curricula in the schools—the best of times for the scientific toy business—Porter added “Inside the Atom” and “Chemistry of Outer Space” units to Chemcraft sets (Figure 25, p 41) and plug-in electric illumination to microscope sets (Figure 26, p 42), and it introduced three new kit lines—”Biocraft” (Figure 27, p 43), “Labcraft” (Figure 28, p 44), and “Sciencecraft” (Figure 28, p 45).
During the 1960s, Porter introduced a 3-D stereovision microscope as part of a new 3-D mineralogy lab (Figure 33, p 51), a new industrial science lab (Figure 34, p 52), a Mathcraft set (Figure 35, p 52), pH testing kits (Figure 36, p 53), molecular model kits (Figure 36, p 53), and tripod-mounted telescopes (Figure 41, p 57). The Porter–Lionel alliance continued for most of the 1960s, but both Porter and Gilbert, its primary rival, were absorbed by Gabriel Industries (Figures 43 and 44, p 58), which, in turn, was absorbed by CBS in 1978. A. C. Gilbert and Harold Porter died in 1961 and 1963, respectively, ending a historic era.
After many years of growth, during the 1970s, the scientific toy industry came to an end, a demise mourned by all of us who got our start with a chemistry set. In an increasingly litigious society liability concerns arose over the safety of sets containing chemicals, while interest in scientific toys lagged because of competition from robots, electronic games, and fad toys. The Porter Science Division closed its Hagerstown plant in 1984. Though gone, the Porter Chemical Company is not forgotten. Surviving chemistry sets now sell for many times their original prices, and a Chemcraft set is on display at Washington, DC’s Smithsonian Institution.
According to Tyler,
None of Porter’s competitors matched the quality and scientific relevancy of Chemcraft. Porter sets not only entertained America’s youth, they built life skills in the process. Touching the lives and shaping the futures of many young scientists is the lasting legacy of Harold Mitchell Porter (p 59).
His book should reawaken an interest in science kits in general and Porter science kits in particular.
The volume is profusely illustrated, with 38 pages of the text devoted to advertisements and photographs. Three appendices comprise about half of the entire book. Appendix One, “Chemcraft Chemical Magic: Mystifying Magical Demonstrations” (a facsimile reproduction of a 1937 booklet) (pp 63–93) includes directions for 95 short experiments of a few sentences each and complete instructions for presenting a magic show. None of the experiments explains the chemistry involved, and nary a formula or equation is in sight. This deficiency made me now realize that the function of chemistry sets was more inspirational than educational or instructional. They served to interest us in chemistry, but it was not until we supplemented them with additional, conventional textbooks that we began to understand “the central science,” at least that was the case for me. Appendix Two, with the politically incorrect title, “How to be a Boy Chemist” (pp 95–102), is a collection of miscellaneous advertisements and illustrations. Appendix Three is discussed below. The book lacks an index, but since it is relatively short (a quick read), this is not a serious problem.
The few errors in the book are “typos” that could have been avoided by more careful proofreading: “American” for “America” (p 12); “rant” for “ran” (p 30); “lat” for “late” (p 40); and “steromicroscope” for “stereomicroscope” (p 49). More serious are the errors that occur in Appendix Three (pp 103–130), which consists of facsimile reproductions of pages from The Chemcraft Science Magazine: Official Organ of the Chemcraft Science Club. Of course, these are not the fault of the author, but they are alarming because the young readers of the magazine would not be able to recognize them. As a case in point, no fewer than 13 misspellings, not to mention the five missing diacritical marks, are found in the names of the discoverers of the elements (pp 127–128). For example, “Ramsay” is consistently misspelled as “Ramsey” and “Kirchhoff” as “Kirchoff,” while one of the discoverers of uranium, [Eugène] “Peligot” is rendered as “Beligut.”
In many ways this book has been a “stroll down memory lane” for me. Not only are the prices familiar to my childhood, when a hot dog cost a nickel and the price of a full lobster dinner was 85¢, but the list of known elements ended with uranium (At. No. 92) (p 128). Also, the list of the elements, dating from the early 1930s included some that were never confirmed: masurium (At. No. 43, technetium); illinium (At. No. 61, promethium); alabamine (At. No. 85, astatine); and virginium (At. No. 87, francium). I grew up with these names.
This short, engrossing book will, of course, be of interest to former owners of chemistry and other science sets. It will also appeal to persons concerned with educational toys, especially scientific ones, and their history; scientific biography; businesses and businessmen; and company histories. I hope that its publication by a small press with little of the advertising that usually accompanies the appearance of books from major publishers will not prevent the above audience from learning about its existence.
And now I’m obliged to confess that I never owned a Chemcraft chemistry set. I concluded my article as follows:
My love affair with chemistry has spanned more than half a century. And all of it began with my first A. C. Gilbert Chemistry Set! .
References and Notes
1. Kauffman, G. B. My First Chemistry Set. Today’s Chemist 1989 (Dec), 2 (6), 14–15.
2. Ryan, J. F. For Openers: Influences. Today’s Chemist at Work 2000 (Sept), 9 (9), 7.
3. Schmidt, J. M. Yesterday’s Toy Becomes Tomorrow’s Trade. Today’s Chemist at Work 2000 (Sept), 9 (9), 42–44, 47–48.
4. Lewis, R. G.; Hinshaw, J.; Swulius, T. A Set of Memories [letters to the editor]. Today’s Chemist at Work 2000 (Dec), 9 (12), 9.
5. Sacks, O. Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a Chemical Boyhood; Alfred A. Knopf: New York, Toronto, 2001.
6. Fountain, H. When Backyards Were Laboratories. The New York Times, May 20, 2002.
7. Anonymous. My First Chemistry Set. Chem. Eng. News 2002 (July 22), 80 (29), 6.
8. Gilbert, A. C.; McClintock, M. The Man Who Lives in Paradise: The Autobiography of A. C. Gilbert; Rinehart: New York, 1954.
George B. Kauffman
California State University, Fresno, email@example.com
Encyclopedia of Separation Science. Ian D. Wilson, Editor-in-Chief; Edward R. Adlard, Managing Technical Editor; Michael Cooke and Colin F. Poole, Editors. Academic Press: San Diego, CA; London, England, 2000. http://www.academicpress.com. 10 volumes, ccclxx + 4954 pp. 20.4 ´ 27.5 cm.; hardcover. $3,197.95; £2,065.00; ISBN 0-12-226770-2.
In the USA or Canada order from Elsevier Regional Sales Office, Customer Service Department, 11830 Westline Industrial Drive, St. Louis, MO 63146, USA; Phone: (800) 545-2522; FAX: (800) 535-9935; email: usbkinfo @elsevier.com. In the UK and the rest of the world order from Elsevier Customer Service Department, Linacre House, Jordan Hill, Oxford OX2 8DP, UK; Phone: +44 1865 474110; FAX: +44 1865 474111; email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Separation is one of the most basic operations in chemistry. In some languages it is virtually synonymous with our science. For example, in German the verb “scheiden” means to separate, and the noun “Scheidung” or “separation” means “chemical analysis.” Consequently, “Scheidekunst,” literally art of separation,” means “analytical chemistry” in particular and “chemistry” in general; “Scheidekünstler” means “analytical chemist” in particular and “chemist” in general; and the adjective “scheidekünstlerisch” means “chemical.” The editors of the Encyclopedia of Separation Science define separations as “processes of any scale by which the components of a mixture are separated from each other without substantial chemical modification” (p viii).
Although separations have been practiced as an art for millennia, it is only during the last century that the basic principles underlying many of these techniques have been understood. It was not until the 1960s that separation science was designated a distinct area of physical and analytical chemistry by the late J. Calvin Giddings of the University of Utah, who coined the term. He recognized that a wide range of separation methods are governed by the same fundamental physical principles and that much could be learned by applying the knowledge of one such method to others. In 1984 the American Chemical Society established an annual Award in Separations Science “to recognize outstanding achievements in fundamental or applied research directed to separations science and technology.” Giddings won the award in 1986, and two of the contributors to the encyclopedia (Georges Guiochon, 1991, and Charles W. Gehrke, 1999) are recipients.
The goal of separation science is to separate mixtures into their components and to identify the nature of these components. A truly interdisciplinary field, it deals with almost every area of the “hard” sciences such as chemistry including clinical chemistry, biology, medicine, and pharmacy, as well as the petroleum, cosmetic, nuclear, food, agrochemical, brewing, winemaking, and environmental sciences.
According to the editors,
We have tried here to reflect the theoretical and practical aspects of the topics in this encyclopedia, and have attempted to achieve a blend of theory, practice and applications that will enable someone knowledgeable in a field to go directly to a relevant article; whilst the novice can begin with an overview and gradually iterate towards the practical application. One thing is clear, separations cover such a wide range of topics that no single individual can be knowledgeable, let alone expert, in them all. It is against this background that we decided that an encyclopedia designed to cover this science would be of value as a single source of reference that would provide access to the whole field of separations (p viii).
In my opinion, the editors have eminently succeeded in attaining their goal and have produced an authoritative sourcebook dealing with the entire broad range of separation methods now available.
In defining the scope and coverage of the encyclopedia, the volumes of which are consecutively paginated, the editors have divided the area of separations into 12 families or topic areas according to the principles on which the separations are based, viz., affinity, centrifugation, chromatography, crystallization, distillation, electrophoresis, extraction, flotation, ion exchange, mass spectrometry, membranes, and particle size. The 532 signed and meticulously cross-referenced articles are divided into three categories:
Level I articles (Volume 1, pp 1-225) provide overviews of one of the above 12 separation areas written by authorities in the particular area. They are intended to give an introduction to the topic from which the reader can, if he or she wishes, proceed to Level II articles (Volumes 1-4, pp 227-1844), which discuss the theory, development, instrumentation, and practice of the various techniques within the 12 broad classifications of the Level I articles. For example, the Level I article on chromatography is supported in Level II by descriptions of gas, liquid, and supercritical fluid chromatography, along with information on instrumentation. Because of their applications, separations are often of interest to practitioners, and Level II articles serve as introductions to Level III articles (Volumes 5-9, pp 1845-4502), which provide detailed descriptions of the use of the various methods described in Level I and Level II articles for solving actual problems. The articles are alphabetically arranged within the three levels.
The extensive cross-references and exhaustive indexing for all the articles should permit the reader to obtain easily and quickly all the relevant information in the encyclopedia. Also, every article, regardless of the level, includes a brief but carefully selected bibliography of key books, review articles, and important papers, thus giving the reader a valuable “gateway” into the literature of separation science on a given topic. Some overlap occasionally occurs between articles dealing with closely related topics. However, since each article is intended to be a self-contained source of information, some overlap is unavoidable and not undesirable in order to ensure complete coverage of a topic. Inasmuch as the importance of separation science lies in its applications, the encyclopedia includes a number of “essential guides” to method development in a number of key areas such as the isolation and purification of proteins and enzymes or the development of chromatographic separations.
In many cases the techniques discussed in the encyclopedia can be used as the basis for analytical methods, but the focus is on the methods of separation of mixtures not on their determination. For the latter focus the reader should consult the same publisher’s Encyclopedia of Analytical Science (Townshend, A., Ed.-in-Chief. Encyclopedia of Analytical Science; 10 vols.; Academic Press: London, England; San Diego, CA, 1995; 2nd ed., 2005),which deals in depth with analysis. Its presentation is similar to that of the encyclopedia under review (The two are intended to be complementary.) and is also available online.
The Encyclopedia of Separation Science is a truly international venture. Editor-in-Chief Ian D. Wilson of AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals Ltd., Managing Technical Editor Edward R. Adlard of the Thornton Research Centre, and Editor Michael Cooke of the University of London are based in the United Kingdom, while Editor Colin F. Poole of Wayne State University is based in the United States. The encyclopedia’s 17-member Advisory Board of academic and industrial scientists hails from the UK (seven), the USA (five), the Netherlands (two), and Germany, France, and Canada (one each). The 646 contributors from academic, industrial, and governmental laboratories worked (Several died before the encyclopedia was published.) in 41 countries—the USA (170), UK (106), Germany (43), Spain and France (34 each), Italy (25), Japan and Canada (23 each), Switzerland (21), Australia and Sweden (16 each), Netherlands (15), India (13), Czech Republic (11), Portugal and Belgium (10 each), Denmark and South Africa (8 each), Poland (7), Russia, Taiwan, Greece, Norway, and Finland (4 each), and Hungary, Ireland, Singapore (3 each), to cite only countries with the most contributors.
The Encyclopedia of Separation Science is replete with numerous tables, figures, and a color plate section (a total of 128 plates) in each volume except the last one. It consistently uses International British English spelling, and each of its ten volumes contains periodic tables (inside front and back covers), a foreword, preface, and introduction (each one page), guide to the use of the encyclopedia (four pages), and table of contents for the entire set. Each of the volumes has a separate ISBN number:
· Volume 1. Level I Affinity Separation to Level II: Chromatography/Universal Chromatography (xxvii + pp 1-425; 39 articles).
· Volume 2. Level II: Chromatography: Gas/Column Technology to Chromatography: Thin-Layer (Planar)/Theory of TLC (xxxvii + pp 426-930; 62 articles).
· Volume 3. Level II: Crystallization/Additives: Molecular Design to Extraction/Ultrasound Extractions (xxxvii + pp 931-1453; 52 articles).
· Volume 4. Level II: Flotation/Bubble-Particle Adherence: Synergistic Effect of Reagents to Particle Size Separation/Theory and Instrumentation of Field Flow Fractionation (xxxvii + pp 1454-1844, the shortest volume; 47 articles).
· Volume 5. Level III: Acids/Gas Chromatography to Chiral Separations/Thin-Layer (Planar) Chromatography (xxxvii + pp 1845-2440, the longest volume; 66 articles).
· Volume 6. Level III: Citrus Oils: Liquid Chromatography to Gas Separation by Metal Complexes: Membrane Separations (xxxvii + pp 2441-2938; 68 articles).
· Volume 7. Level III: Gene Typing: Two-Dimensional Electrophoresis to Neurotoxins: Chromatography (xxxvii + pp 2939-3490; 67 articles).
· Volume 8. Level III: Nickel and Cobalt Ores: Flotation to Prostaglandins: Gas Chromatography (xxxvii + pp 3491-4008; 65 articles).
· Volume 9. Level III: Proteins to Zeolites: Ion Exchangers (xxxvii + pp 4009-4502; 66 articles).
· Volume 10. (xxxvii + pp 4503-4954). In addition to the introductory material contained in all the volumes, this final volume contains a list of contributors (27 double-column pages), 18 appendices of abbreviations, nomenclature, methods, conversion of units, and other useful data (278 pages), and an extremely detailed index (146 triple-column pages) that facilitates location of information.
Like other Elsevier Reference Works, the encyclopedia is available online on ScienceDirectand is periodically updated. The electronic version allows the user to locate information in a number of ways. The user can browse a subject area, search for a word or phrase across part or all of the encyclopedia, or investigate subject areas outside of his or her field of expertise. Dynamic reference linking leads the user from cited references within articles to the source abstract, quickly and effectively widening the search. The online version permits basic and advanced searches within volumes, parts of volumes, or across the entire set. Searches can be built, saved, and rerun, and saved searches can be combined. All articles are available as full-text html or pdf files, which can be viewed, downloaded, or printed in their original print format. The licensing fee for ongoing annual access depends on the population size of the academic institution: <10,000, $600, €630; 10,001-25,000, $1200, €1260; and >25,000, $1800, €1900. However, these fees are only guidelines, and the institution should consult with Elsevier account managers.
I recommend the Encyclopedia of Separation Science, the most complete and comprehensive reference to the field, in both print and electronic formats,to engineers, scientists, managers, and consultants interested in physicochemical separations. It will be of interest to individuals working in such high technology industries as the pharmaceutical, biomedical, biotechnology, agrochemical, petrochemical, food, flavor, fragrance, mineral extraction, water purification, brewing, and nuclear fields as well as to analytical and production chemists, clinical analysts, environmental technologists, and plant and equipment manufacturers and suppliers. It should also be useful for practitioners of separation science seeking an overview and guidance in selecting a method for a new problem. This definitive encyclopedia also belongs in every technical library.
George B. Kauffman
California State University, Fresno, email@example.com
It’s Been a Good Life. By Isaac Asimov; edited by Janet Jeppson Asimov. Prometheus Books: 59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst, NY 14228-2197, 2002. Phone: (800) 421-0351; FAX: (716) 5691-0137; http://www.prometheusbooks.com. Illustrations. 309 pp, hardbound, 15.8 ´ 23.1 cm. $25.00. ISBN 1-57392-968-9.
Since the opening on July 15, 2004 in North American theaters of director Alex Proyas’ summer blockbuster film, “I, Robot,” starring Will Smith, Bridget Moynahan (as Asimov’s “first successful female character—a robopsychologist”), James Cromwell, Chi McBride, and Bruce Greenwood, with Alan Tudyk as the voice of the robot, loosely based on Isaac Asimov’s 1950 science fiction classic, Asimov, his famous three laws of robotics (a term that he coined), and his multifarious works are now reaching a new generation of viewers and readers . For those for whom the movie is their first exposure to the world’s greatest author of science fiction and one of the 20th century’s most gifted and prolific writers, It’s Been a Good Life is an excellent first source of information about his life and oeuvre . Before discussing the book I’d like to mention some of my contacts with Asimov, which provide insights into his personality and work that the book highlights.
Unlike most persons, who were introduced to Asimov’s writing through his well-known science fiction, I first encountered him through the five short articles of a chemical-mathematical nature that he wrote for the Journal of Chemical Education  and characterized as “trivial, but amusing” in It’s Been a Good Life (p 127). At that time I was completely unaware of his growing science fiction reputation, but I was astonished by his novel, offbeat calculations that showed, for example, that “the 539 amino acids in the horse hemoglobin molecule could be arranged in a number of different ways equal to a 4 followed by 619 zeroes” (p 127) (3.96 ´ 10619 in the original article” [3e]).
Most of my correspondence with Isaac (He always used his first name.) during the following years involved chemistry and its history . For example, according to Isaac, “In a fit of despondency over the personal and national tragedy, and over the fact that he was suffering from cancer, [Emil Fischer] killed himself” , an assertion that I had never seen anywhere. In his reply to my question about his sources for this statement, he wrote that he did not preserve his notes or bibliographical records but that a passage in Helferich  was “a delicate way of saying that he killed himself” . He admitted, however, that “the passage is not enough,” but he stated, “I’m sure I had a better reference but I no longer remember what it was” . This is hardly surprising because he had written 140 books in the 15 years since he had written his mini-biography of Fischer (1964) to the date of his letter to me! .
My first encounter with a scientific spoof occurred during my second year of teaching. Brother Myron Collins, a student in my Fall 1956 Advanced Inorganic Chemistry course, handed me a typewritten copy of an apparently anonymous paper titled “The Endochronic Properties of Resublimated Thiotimoline,” written in typically learned scientific style and format, complete with tables, graphs, footnotes, and references. It discussed the effect of hydrophilic (water-loving) groups in increasing the solubility of compounds and described experiments with a remarkable substance that was so soluble that it dissolved before the solvent (water) was added! Because the paper involved the extrapolation of data by unthinking rote to obtain this unusual result, I made frequent reference to it in my General Chemistry lectures, especially in connection with the iodine clock demonstration [10, 11]. Because the time required for the solution to become blue decreased with increasing concentration of the reactants, by extrapolation of the plot of time versus concentration, I was able to demonstrate the effect of thoughtless extrapolation—at sufficiently high concentrations the solution should turn blue before the reactants were mixed!
Years later, under the pseudonym Namffuak B. Egroeg (my name spelled backwards) I submitted the thiotimoline article, which I considered an ideal paper for the Journal of Irreproducible Results, to the editor, Alexander Kohn, a professor of virology at the Tel Aviv University Medical School. He responded angrily that the article had been written and published previously by Isaac Asimov  and accused me of being a plagiarist, attempting to appropriate Asimov’s intellectual property, and passing it off as my own. Despite my protests, he refused to accept my explanation and despite my later favorable review of his book on the role of chance in scientific discovery , I fear that from his perch in heaven (He died in 1994.) he still looks down on me as an unmitigated scoundrel . I regret not writing to Isaac about this incident. Knowing his boundless sense of humor, I’m sure that he would have been amused .
Isaac was a legend in his own time for his inexhaustible creativity, wide-ranging intellectual curiosity, and unique talent for explaining complex subjects in clear, concise prose, which earned him the nickname of the Great Explainer “with the rather unusual reputation for knowing everything” (pp 139 and 177). Yet, in addition to his almost 500 entertaining and illuminating science fiction and nonfiction books, he somehow found the time to write a massive autobiographical trilogy  of more than 1500 pages, detailing his life and work from his birth in the small town of Petrovichi, U.S.S.R. on January 2, 1920 (Because of the lack of records, it may have been as early as October 4, 1919.) to 1978.
A decade after Isaac’s death, at the request of Prometheus Books, his widow, Janet Jeppson Asimov , who shared 19 years of marriage with him and who is a psychiatrist who retired after a private practice of three decades and herself an author of 21 books (15 of them with Isaac), many short stories and articles, and writer of a bimonthly science column for a newspaper syndicate, has condensed the three volumes into one fascinating book that brings to life one of the most brilliant, creative, and original minds of our time. The approach is not primarily chronological but instead concentrates on what he wrote about his life as a writer and as a humanist (p 7). She also includes much autobiographical material from short pieces and letters, some of which is now out of print or has never been collected in book form. Moreover, she has excerpted material from letters that he wrote to her, and she has included 14 photographs, several of which have never been previously published. Her comments and explanatory passages are clearly marked in brackets.
This candid memoir presents an intimate portrait of a genius whose tireless passion for writing is evident on every page. In his characteristic frank, open, and unpretentious manner Isaac recounts firsthand the important experiences of a remarkably full life.
Among these are his emigration to the United States; relations with his father, mother, sister Marcia, and brother Stanley; years as a Wunderkind in Depression-era Brooklyn (When asked if he was an infant prodigy, he answers, “Yes, indeed, and I still am,” p 27); early fascination with science fiction pulp magazines; the thrill of his first published story; his education (M.S., M.A., and Ph.D.) at Columbia University; marriage to Gertrude Blugerman and the birth of his two children; wartime work at the Naval Air Experimental Station in Philadelphia; service in the U.S. Army; teaching career at the Boston University Medical School; the creation of his well-known story, “Nightfall;” the genesis of the Foundation (“the most popular and successful of all my writings,” p 69–70) and Robot series; the death of his parents; divorce from Gertrude and marriage to Janet; evolution as a creative writer; dealing with editors and rejection; his writing and speaking engagements; subjects and ideas of special interest such as religion, humanism, the Bible, sexism, love, prolificity, and writing and writers’ problems; awards and 14 honorary degrees (“One can’t live a normal lifetime and accomplish anything at all above the level of a drunken bum without getting awards for something,” p 236); his heart attack and triple bypass surgery; and his death in 1992.
I admit to being a habitual collector of apt quotations and bons mots. With wit and profound insight Isaac has provided me with items for my collection on virtually every page. Here are just a few that I found particularly enlightening, inspiring, self-insightful, or amusing. If you read this book, I’m sure that you’ll find your own favorites:
No “Depression baby” can ever be a yuppie (p 14).
True literacy is becoming an arcane art, and the nation is steadily “dumbing down” (p 15).
The universe I live in consists of matter and energy only, and that doesn’t make me in the least bit uncomfortable (p 20).
[When David Frost asked Isaac if he had tried to find God, he replied,] God is much more intelligent than I am—let him try to find me (p 21).
[In a dream in which Isaac had died and gone to Heaven, he asked the recording angel,] Is there a typewriter here that I can use? (p 25).
My system for writing about something I have only the vaguest notion of is to close my eyes and type VERY VERY FAST (p 146).
Nothing goes really to waste, if you’re determined to learn (p 147).
I don’t write only when I’m writing. Whenever I’m away from my typewriter—eating, falling asleep, performing my ablutions—my mind keeps working (p 152).
The writer’s life is inherently an insecure one. Each project is a new start and may be a failure. The fact that a previous item has been successful is no guard against failure this time (p 155).
To be a cynic about people works just the other way around and makes you incapable of enjoying the good things (p 159).
Knowledge is not only power; it is happiness, and being taught is the intellectual analog of being loved (p165).
The only education a writer gets is in reading other people’s writing…. Of course, sometimes it’s awfully hard to tell golden drops from shit (p 194).
There is no percentage in arguing with fanatics (p 208).
My books tend to celebrate the triumph of technology rather than its disaster (p 210).
I sometimes think my articles are a vast scheme of self-education…. There is nothing like writing an article on a subject for forcing yourself to think that subject through clearly (p 266).
We’re living in a time when science has made “purely national interest” completely obsolete, only not enough of us realize it (p 267).
In this present world, scientific illiteracy is a sin and anyone who encourages the spread of scientific illiteracy is a criminal (p 268).
It is absolute truth that I have never written a book that didn’t teach me far more than it taught any reader (p 273).
The poignant epilogue (pp 251–256), a revised version of the one that Janet wrote for the posthumously published third volume of Isaac’s autobiography [16c], reveals for the first time “the true story of Isaac’s final illness and death” (p 7). When Isaac underwent heart bypass surgery on December 14, 1983, the blood used for transfusion was not screened for HIV contamination, and from February 1990, when he was tested for HIV, until he died of heart and kidney failure on April 6, 1992 at the age of 72, Isaac, Janet, his daughter Robyn, and a few other persons knew that he had AIDS. The physicians advised against going public with the news, and Isaac followed their advice . Despite increasing weakness, he wrote daily almost until the end. In April 1991, he concluded the manuscript:
I’m afraid that my life has just about run its course and I don’t really expect to live much longer…. In my life, I have had Janet and I have had my daughter, Robyn, and my son, David; I have had a large number of good friends; I have had my writing and the fame and fortune it has brought me; and no matter what happens to me now, it’s been a good life [the title of the book under review here—GBK], and I am satisfied with it. So please don’t worry about me, or feel bad. Instead I only hope that this book has brought you a few laughs (pp 253–254).
The bulk of the book consists of 38 short chapters ranging in length from two to 16 pages. Three appendices and a short two double-column index of Isaac’s published writings mentioned in the book conclude the volume. Isaac had written 399 science essays for Fantasy and Science Fiction, but he was too ill to write the 400th. Janet suggested that they write it together, recording his thoughts on science and science writing, but the essay was never written. For this volume she “finally put one together from our discussions and letters” (p 257). Titled “Essay 400—A Way of Thinking,” it appears as Appendix A (pp 257–273). In Appendix B we are treated to “the best story I had ever done and (in my private conviction) the best science-fiction story anyone had ever done” (p 133), “The Last Question” (pp 275–288), which first appeared in Science Fiction Quarterly in November 1956. Appendix C (pp 289–306), a bibliography of his works, classified chronologically within the following categories, gives a glimpse of the breadth and scope of his interests (I’ve added the number of works in parentheses.):
· Fiction: Science fiction novels (38); mystery novels (2); science fiction short stories and short story collections (33); fantasy short story collection (1); mystery short story collections (9); and edited anthologies (118).
· Nonfiction: General Science (24); mathematics (7); astronomy (68); earth sciences (11); chemistry and biochemistry (16); physics (22); biology (17); science essay collections (40); science fiction essay collections (2); history (19); the Bible (7); literature (10); humor and satire (9); autobiography (3); and miscellaneous (14).
Lately, the Yiddish term, “Mensch,” to indicate an upright, honorable human being, worthy of the greatest respect, has been bandied about indiscriminately, often accompanied by the intensive adjective “real.” When my now middle-age daughters were teenagers, they invariably assured me that their current heartthrob was a “real Mensch.” In describing Isaac Asimov as a “real Mensch,” I use the term advisedly with full consciousness of the uniqueness and rarity of the term. Isaac’s humanity shines forth from every page of his autobiography. In particular,
I believe in the scientific method and the rule of reason as a way of understanding the universe. I don’t believe in the existence of entities that cannot be reached by such a method and such a rule and that are therefore “supernatural.” I certainly don’t believe in the mythologies of our society, in Heaven and Hell, in God and angels, in Satan and demons. I’ve thought of myself as an “atheist,” but that simply describes what I didn’t believe in, not what I did (p 231).
In the 1970s after reading the “Humanist Manifesto II” stating the principles of the movement, he joined the American Humanist Association, which selected him in 1984 as “Humanist of the Year,” an honor that he shared with Margaret Sanger, Leo Szilard, Linus Pauling, Julian Huxley, Erich Fromm, Benjamin Spock, R. Buckminster Fuller, B. F. Skinner, Jonas E. Salk, Andrei Sakharov, Carl Sagan, and other eminent figures. He became president of the AHA and remained so until his death. In 2004, largely as a result of reading It’s Been a Good Life, I joined the AHA (http://www.americanhumanists.org/).
It’s a Been a Good Life conveys Isaac’s unbounded enthusiasm for his craft, his infectious joy in learning and creating, his complete intellectual honesty, his strong humanitarian convictions, and his infinite fund of good humor, wit, and optimism—even during his final illness. It resembles an intimate conversation between the author and the reader—with the author doing most of the talking, and it reveals Isaac’s inner thoughts and experiences with various luminaries of the “golden age” of science fiction, such as Harlan Ellison, L(yon) Sprague de Camp, Robert A. Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke, and Clifford D. Simak. This behind-the-scenes, first-hand self-portrait is a must-have for Asimov aficionados as well as science and science fiction fans in general.
References and Notes
1. Rothstein, E. Critic’s Notebook: For Asimov, Robots Were Friends, Not So for Will Smith. New York Times, July 15, 2004; Munro, D. Droid Rage: “I, Robot” twists Asimov’s vision a bit, but Will Smith helps make it work. The Fresno Bee, July 16, 2004, pp E1–E2. This is not the first time that one of Asimov’s works has been made into a movie; his novel, Fantastic Voyage (Houghton Mifflin: Boston, MA, 1966) was made into a film (with his collaboration) starring Stephen Boyd and Raquel Welch that same year; its photography, editing, and sound effects were Oscar-nominated, while the special effects won an Academy Award.
2. Another first source is the Isaac Asimov Home Page. http://www.asimovonline.com (accessed Sept 2004).
3. Asimov, I. (a) Naturally Occurring Radioisotopes. J. Chem. Educ. 1953, 30, 398; (b) The Natural Occurrence of Short-Lived Radioisotopes. J. Chem. Educ. 1953, 30, 616–618; (c) The Relative Contributions of Various Elements to the Earth’s Radioactivity. J. Chem. Educ. 1954, 31, 24–25; (d) The Elementary Composition of the Earth’s Crust. J. Chem. Educ. 1954, 31, 70–72; (e) Potentialities of Protein Isomerism. J. Chem. Educ. 1954, 31, 125–127. Asimov wrote up this article in an entirely different style and published it as “Hemoglobin and the Universe” in his favorite magazine, Astounding Science Fiction.
4. My favorite letter is attached with magnets to one of my filing cabinets. It ends: “As one prolific to another--heartiest best wishes and may the pen (or word processor) fail to drop from our nerveless fingers for many a long year. Isaac” (February 16, 1985).
5. Asimov, I. Asimov’s Biographical Encyclopedia of Science and Technology: The Lives and Achievements of 1195 Great Scientists from Ancient Times to the Present Chronically Arranged by Isaac Asimov, new rev. ed.; Doubleday & Co., Inc.: Garden City, NY, 1978; p 473. This volume, dog-eared from frequent use, sits on my reference shelf alongside Asimov’s Chronology of Science & Discovery; Harper & Row, Publishers: New York, NY, 1989. For a review see Kauffman, G. B. The Science Teacher 1991 (Feb), 58 (2), 71–73.
6. Helferich, B. Emil Fischer. In Great Chemists; Farber, E., Ed.; Interscience: New York, 1961; pp 981–995.
7. Asimov, I. Letter to G. B. Kauffman, May 18, 1979.
8. I later discovered that Isaac was correct. I learned that, according to F. Herneck (Z. Chem. 1970, 10, 47), Fischer ended his life with prussic acid on June 15, 1919 .
9. Kauffman, G. B.; P`riebe, P. M. The Emil Fischer—William Ramsay Friendship: The Tragedy of Scientists in War. J. Chem. Educ. 1990, 67 (2), 93–101.
10. Shakhashiri, B. Z. Chemical Demonstrations: A Handbook for Teachers of Chemistry; The University of Wisconsin Press: Madison, WI, 1992; Vol. 4, pp 16–25.
11. Kauffman, G. B.; Hall, C. R. J. Chem. Educ. 1958, 35, 557.
12. Asimov, I. In Chemistry and Science Fiction; Stocker, J., Ed.; American Chemical Society: Washington, DC, 1998; pp 205–210; reprinted from Astounding Science Fiction; Street and Smith Publications: New York, NY, March 1948. For a review of Stocker’s book see Kauffman, G. B.; Kauffman, L. M. Chem. Intelligencer 1999 (Oct), 5 (4), 56–58. Asimov’s paper is discussed in It’s Been a Good Life (pp 96, 99–100).
13. Kohn, A. Fortune or Failure: Missed Opportunities and Chance Discoveries in Science; Basil Blackwell: Cambridge, MA, 1989. For a review see Kauffman, G. B. J. Chem. Educ. 1990, 67, A241.
14. Kauffman, G. B. review of Abrahams, M. The Best of Annals of Improbable Research (AIR); W. H. Freeman and Co.: New York, NY, 1998. Chem. Educator 2000, 5 (2), 99–101; DOI 10.1333/s00897000377a.
15. Isaac wrote eight books of humor and satire, including The Sensuous Dirty Old Man; Walker & Co.: New York, 1971; reprint ed.; Signet Book, New American Library: New York, NY, 1972. I only graded this book as an “F,” which shows that I don’t always consider everything that he wrote as wonderful.
16. Asimov, I.(a) In Memory Yet Green: The Autobiography of Isaac Asimov 1920–1954; Doubleday & Co.: Garden City, NY, 1979 (xii + 721 pp); (b) In Joy Still Felt: The Autobiography of Isaac Asimov 1954–1978; Doubleday & Co.: Garden City, NY, 1980 (xii + 828 pp); (c) I, Asimov: A Memoir; Doubleday & Co.: Garden City, NY, 1994 (562 pp). According to my notes (Like Isaac, I’m an inveterate note taker), “Ian D. Rae of Monash University, [Victoria, Australia] suggested that I read this autobiography for insight on problems with jealous colleagues.” Chemical educators will find great insights into many related difficulties in both the autobiography and It’s Been a Good Life.
17. Talking with Janet J. Asimov. AAAS Matters Autumn 2003, 1, 6.
18. Locus: The Newspaper of the Science Fiction Field, in its April 2002 issue, mistakenly stated, “Asimov reportedly wanted to reveal he had AIDS but was talked out of it at the time by his second wife, Janet Jeppson.” Janet quickly set the record straight in a letter to the editor of April 4, 2002 [Locus online; http://locusmag.com/2002 /Issue04/Letter.html (accessed Sept 2004)].
George B. Kauffman
California State University, Fresno, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Third Man of the Double Helix: The Autobiography of Maurice Wilkins. By Maurice Wilkins. Oxford University Press: Oxford/New York, 2003. Illustrations. xiv + 274 pp, hardbound, 16.0 ´ 24.0 cm. $27.50; £16.99. ISBN 0-19-860665-6.
As I recall, a character on a television comedy (Was it the “Jerry Seinfeld Show”?) once referred to “The Three Tenors” as “Luciano Pavarotti, Placido Domingo, and the other guy.” In the case of the trio of scientists who shared the 1962 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, the pair who readily come to mind are James Dewey Watson and Francis Harry Compton Crick, while Maurice Hugh Frederick Wilkins is usually
relegated to the status of “the other guy.” The first two have maintained a prominent place in the public consciousness through books [1–5] and lectures, whereas Wilkins has kept a relatively low profile, although, as his autobiography makes abundantly clear, he has been extremely active in both science and science in society issuesduring the intervening years. However, in my opinion, the title of the book under review here, The Third Man of the Double Helix , unfairly reinforces the perception of obscurity for Wilkins, who has garnered much less attention from the mass media, especially compared with the headline-grabbing and flamboyant Jim Watson, whose book, The Double Helix , became a runaway, controversial bestseller.
After remaining silent all these years, to mark the 50th anniversary of the discovery of the helical structure of DNA , Wilkins adds his own story to those of Watson  and Crick . He naturally devotes considerable space to his relations with Rosalind Franklin [8–10], whom he consistently refers to as “Rosalind” in marked contrast to the name “Rosy” condescendingly used by Watson . In particular, he cites his need to answer Anne Sayre’s assertions in her biography of Franklin , in which she attempted to dispute Watson’s portrayal of Franklin , as one of his motivations for writing the book under review here:
[Sayre’s] book enabled some activists to mount a campaign in Rosalind’s name to improve the lot of women in science. This was no doubt well-intentioned and indeed useful, but one side-effect was that Rosalind’s male colleagues were to some extent demonised. The most prominent demon seemed to be me. Since then, the Franklin/Wilkins story has often been told as an example of the unjustness of male scientists towards their women colleagues, and questions have been raised over whether credit was distributed fairly when the Nobel Prize was awarded. I have found this situation distressing over the years, and I expect that this book is in some way my attempt to respond to these questions, and to tell my side of the story (pp ix-x).
However, his book is a complete autobiography and deals with Wilkins’ life and career from his earliest known ancestor, Philip Henry, a Nonconformist and Unitarian, like his contemporary Isaac Newton, to his most recent post-Nobel activities. Along the way he sketches his interactions with a multitude of his colleagues and acquaintances, their personalities, and their activities, most of whom he views in a positive light.
Although the Wilkins family was Irish, Maurice, the son of Edgar Henry and Eveline Wilkins (née Whittacker), was born on December 15, 1916 in Pongaroa, New Zealand, where the family had emigrated because his father, a physician, had heard that opportunities were greater there for doctors than in Ireland. However, after years of frustration in battling the medical establishment, which resisted his ideas about preventive medicine, in 1923 his father decided to return with his family to Ireland. The family settled in Birmingham, where the father became a school physician.
After attending King Edward’s High School, Maurice, who was interested in astronomy, telescope construction, and socialist ideas, entered St. John’s College, Cambridge University with the aid of a scholarship. Here he joined the Natural Science Club, the student Socialist Society, and the Cambridge Scientists Anti-War Group (CSAWG) led by John Desmond Bernal, the eminent X-ray crystallographer, who was an openly avowed Communist. He became concerned with the political aspects of science, especially in relation to the prospect of war, in this case the Spanish Civil War, the problem of Indian independence, and the growing Nazi menace. When the U.S.S.R. moved into Poland in collaboration with Hitler, Wilkins, like many others who had joined the Communist party to defeat Fascism, resigned from the party. He abandoned his interest in astronomy, which seemed to have little direct contact with human life:
I no longer saw science as an escape from human problems: instead, I took the opposite view. I was not very interested in intellectually exciting science of any kind unless it had a real meaning in relation to some aspect of human problems (p 31).
To the present day Wilkins has retained this concern and participation in groups advocating the social responsibility of scientists. His participation in meetings, demonstrations, and marches, his spending much time in writing about science for a Communist Youth magazine (At the time the Soviet Union was regarded as a future ally in the coming war with Germany.), and time lost to his frequent psychological depressions resulted in his receiving only a second-class Ph.D. degree in 1940, which meant that he could not remain in Cambridge for postdoctoral study.
One of Wilkins’ lifelong character traits, as revealed throughout the book, is his ability to recognize the role of chance in life, to “roll with the punches,” and to make lemonade if life handed him a lemon. In his words,
I soon came to realize that there were other universities in Britain, and I began to look around. It would turn out to be a stroke of luck that I was obliged by my poor degree to think beyond the small world of Cambridge (p 48).
I realized I had been really lucky not to have got a good degree in Cambridge. If I had, I would have begun research there and, when the War began, I might well have been sent, “for the duration,” to some isolated and possibly boring government war research lab (p 64).
He contacted his first-year supervisor, Marcus L. E. Oliphant, the Australian physicist, who had left Cambridge to become Head of the University of Birmingham Physics Department. On learning that Wilkins was interested in thermoluminescence in solids, he told him that John Randall was seeking a research assistant, “a remarkable piece of good luck” (p 49).
Next to Rosalind Franklin, Randall plays the largest part in Wilkins’ autobiography. Another of Wilkins’ longtime characteristics that appears repeatedly in his autobiography is his nonjudgmental attitude. While he is as frank in his evaluation of others as he is with his evaluation of himself, he always empathizes with them and attempts of to see the positive aspects, even to the extent of seeking motivations and reasons for what might otherwise be viewed as negative behavior.
In discussing his relations with Randall at King’s College later in his autobiography, Wilkins admits,
The spirit of Randall’s lab was dynamic and positive, but relations with Randall were not always happy. He occasionally showed the rather baffling, negative side I had sometimes seen in Birmingham and St. Andrews. Every year or so he and I had a stand-up row, and nearly always he would give in (and often he brought me a plant from his garden the next day) (p 103).
But as is his wont, Wilkins accepts part of the responsibility for any problems that he experienced with others:
If I had had more understanding of Randall, I might have eased some of the difficulties I had with him. After he died I wrote a Memoir for the Royal Society about his life and work (p 104).
I admired and respected him, but I can not really say that I found him very likeable (p 106).
Although Americans tend to view Brits as rather cold, reserved, and lacking in humor, Wilkins’ autobiography is peppered with witty comments, for example,
I remembered that when I was a boy I had slept in one room with my cousins Roddy and Paul, and lots of farts and laughter had helped us to go to sleep (p 74).
In his description of his X-ray camera, he states,
I found that part of a condom made a flexible seal (and that seemed to amuse people) (p 122).
Wilkins is also unusually open in his confessions of aspects of his own life that most of us would probably consider personal and off limits to a scientific biography. He repeatedly mentions his lack of experience with the opposite sex, his “rather juvenile attitude toward women” (p 133), and his difficulties in relating to them, particularly during his early years. To preserve their anonymity he usually refers to the various women in his life by their first names only.
Contrary to the impression conveyed by Jim Watson’s book , Wilkins maintained “a welcoming attitude to women in science” (p 102). Also, Rosalind Franklin was not the anomalous figure in the King’s College laboratory that she is generally considered to be:
The large number of young women in our lab and the friendly spirit led to several marriages, but none of my friendships there showed any signs of leading to marriage (p 111).
During World War II, Birmingham University was a leading center for atomic physics research. Because Wilkins thought that if the Nazis found a way to create an atomic bomb before the Allies, they would win the war, he asked Oliphant if he could join his team, where he worked on the gaseous diffusion of uranium metal. In 1944 Oliphant and his team, including Wilkins, moved to the University of California, Berkeley, where they collaborated on the Manhattan Project. Here Wilkins met an apparently American art student, identified only as Ruth. When she accidentally became pregnant, the couple married, but Ruth divorced him a few months later. According to Wilkins, “Shortly after our divorce, Ruth gave birth to a son, whom I visited at the hospital” (p 86) .
Wilkins mentions his frequent bouts with depression following his divorce (He even admits to contemplating suicide.) and to his unsuccessful year of daily sessions with a female Freudian psychoanalyst (p 112), followed by “helpful” sessions “for many years” with “a Jungian [analyst of unspecified gender] who specialized in marriage breakdowns” (p 113). He admits, “I was trying hard to find someone to marry” (p 120). However, it was not until he was 42, almost six years after the discovery of the DNA structure, that he married Patricia Ann Chidgey, a teacher, on March 12, 1959, after a three-year courtship. The couple has two sons and two daughters.
In July, 1945 Wilkins returned alone to England. He accepted Randall’s invitation to accompany him to St. Andrews University in Scotland as a Lecturer. However, he was not happy there “from a social point of view….As an isolated divorcee [sic] wanting to build up a new life, I needed a big and active cultural centre” (p 95). Once again, chance and pure luck intervened. In 1946 Randall was offered the distinguished Headship of the Physics Department at King’s College of the University of London, a result of the arrest of the likely internal candidate for the post, Allan Nunn May, who had been passing on confidential information to the Russians.
Wilkins joined Randall and became a member of his interdisciplinary research group, informally known as “Randall’s Circus” in college gossip. Under Randall’s leadership the laboratory soon established itself as a world leader in the new science of molecular biology. In Wilkins’ words,
I looked forward to exploring a new world of science where non-living physics interacted with the biology of living things….I felt that there was a good chance that such work might bring not only fascinating science, but also some real benefit to people’s lives (p 88).
Randall asked Wilkins to conduct the research on deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). Shortly after moving to King’s, Wilkins met physics graduate Francis Crick, whom he asked Randall to employ. Randall decided against this, and Crick went to Cambridge, but Wilkins and Crick became “firm friends.” Wilkins became Assistant Director of the Medical Research Council Biophysics Unit at King’s in 1950 and Deputy Director in 1955. He was appointed an Honorary Lecturer in the newly formed Sub-Department of Biophysics; a full Department of Biophysics was formed in 1961. He was Professor of Molecular Biology from 1962 to 1970, when he became Professor of Biophysics until his retirement in 1981.
Together with graduate student Raymond Gosling, Wilkins showed for the first time—by X-ray diffraction patterns from fibers that Wilkins obtained from Swiss biochemist Rudolph Signer—that DNA was crystalline, results that were not published until three years later—by Gosling and his new supervisor, Rosalind Franklin. In 1950 Randall had appointed Franklin, who had been studying the structure of coals in Paris, to work on protein solutions. A little known fact in the story is that it was actually Wilkins who suggested to Randall that Franklin should be transferred to work on DNA:
I had arranged for Raymond to work with Rosalind because I thought that as a research student he should be supervised by an X-ray expert. It also seemed sensible that Rosalind should be put in the picture as soon as possible (p 129).
In another stroke of luck, Randall asked Wilkins to attend two important conferences abroad in 1951, one in Naples and one in Italy. At the Naples conference Wilkins reported the first really clear X-ray pattern of DNA. Here he met James D. Watson, who had received his Ph.D. in zoology with a dissertation under the guidance of Salvador E. Luria (1962 Nobel Physiology or Medicine laureate). Watson was so excited about Wilkins and Gosling’s photographs that he decided to work on the structural chemistry of nucleic acids and proteins. Later that summer Luria arranged for him to begin work under John C. Kendrew (1962 Nobel Chemistry laureate) in early October 1952 at the Cavendish Laboratory of Cambridge University. All the protagonists in the DNA story were now in place.
Although Wilkins had just reported encouraging results at the Naples conference, on his return he found a surprise awaiting him:
Rosalind came up to me and announced, quietly and firmly, that I should stop doing X-ray work. She concluded with the instruction: “Go back to your microscopes!” [Wilkins had previously been studying the arrangement of atoms in living cells with the use of microscopes.] (p 142).
If anyone turns out to be the villain behind the problems between Wilkins and Franklin, it might be Randall, although Wilkins never intimates this directly; he merely states the facts:
Rosalind’s upset after my talk derived from a letter that Randall had written to her shortly before she came to our lab, outlining the change that I had suggested in her programme of work, from proteins to DNA. I had heard that Rosalind had agreed to the change, but I did not see the letter itself until many years later, when it was found among her papers after her untimely death from cancer at the age of only 37, and after Randall had retired. This letter made clear why Rosalind had believed I would leave X-ray work—a belief I had inadvertently reinforced by missing Rosalind’s first staff meeting at which Randall had discussed DNA research with her, [theoretical physicist Alec] Stokes and Raymond…. Years later, Raymond told me that his impression was that the meeting without me had indeed obscured my role in the X-ray work. As I was eventually to find out, Randall had told Rosalind, in her letter of appointment [December 4, 1950, which Wilkins reproduces in full], that Stokes and I were leaving X-ray work, and my absence had only served to confirm that view. Thus the relationship between me [sic] and Rosalind began on an extremely unfortunate basis, thanks to Randall’s letter (pp 143–144).
Although, as usual, Wilkins seeks exculpatory reasons for Randall’s “strange behaviour” (p 146 et seq.), in this case he is more critical than usual—justifiably so, I think:
My opinion is very clear: that Randall was very wrong to have written to Rosalind telling her that Stokes and I wished to stop our X-ray work on DNA, without consulting us (p 148). All this discussion about what happened when Rosalind moved to King’s may seem unnecessarily complex, but it has one very clear message: Randall was not open. His secret letter to Rosalind was not representative of my relations with him generally—it was very dangerous, to her and to me. It was a pity that Rosalind did not tell me about the letter. It is quite possible that she thought I knew about Randall’s letter—after all, I was Assistant Director of Randall’s MRC Unit. She may have believed that I was involved in the deception. Scientists, more than people in other occupations, need to be open [This last sentence, in various versions, is repeated throughout the book.] (pp 149–150).
Wilkins repeatedly expresses regret and takes primary responsibility for all the mistakes that were made during the ensuing years in the breakdown of his relationship with Franklin, which ultimately affected the interpretation of research results. The following remarks are typical:
It was a pity that Rosalind and I did not spend more time discussing the importance of her discovery and what it might tell us about the nature of DNA. Her air of cool superiority—a look I have never forgotten—temporarily undermined my self-confidence, and gave me a brief feeling of panic (p 155).
My self-effacing manner was probably not productive, and may not have impressed Rosalind (p 157).
If we had proceeded more carefully in this very important situation we might have found a way of cooperating with Rosalind (p 162).
By not standing up for myself I may have lost Rosalind’s respect and encouraged her to be aggressive…. We [Stokes and Wilkins] were not used to confrontations. We should have worked hard to clarify our ideas and then gone back to Rosalind to try to discuss them (p 162).
It never occurred to me to question what Rosalind had said (p 166).
I respected Rosalind as an experienced X-ray worker, and as a result we ignored the possibility that the DNA molecule had two chains and not three [as she believed]. Too much respect led me not to think critically and creatively (p 167).
Many years later, it occurred to me that I should have offered my new camera to Rosalind…. But I did not think of that—the barrier between us seemed so solid (pp 177-178).
In England at this time two laboratories were working extensively on the crystalline structures of biological materials—King’s College on DNA and the Cavendish on proteins. Despite an unspoken agreement (the so-called Bragg moratorium) between the organizations that their two areas would not overlap, Watson and Crick decided that DNA research was more exciting than the protein research on which they were supposedly engaging. Energized by the possibility that Linus Pauling might discover the structure of DNA, the pair began what has become known as “the race for the double helix” using Pauling’s technique of model building, eventually resulting in their famous paper in Nature . Wilkins, with his fervent belief in the importance of cooperation between scientists, loathed the idea of a race.
In my article commemorating the 50th anniversary of the discovery of the structure of DNA, influenced by the accusations against Wilkins by Franklin’s biographers, I wrote:
Because the conflict between Wilkins and Franklin had escalated to the point that they were hardly speaking to each other…, when Watson and Crick visited King’s College, Wilkins did not hesitate to show Franklin’s unpublished X-ray diffraction photographs of the “B” structure of DNA to the two .
This was the key to the puzzle that Watson and Crick solved. In Watson’s words,
The instant I saw the picture my mouth fell open and my pulse began to race. The pattern was unbelievably simpler than those obtained previously (“A” form). Moreover, the black cross of reflections which dominated the picture could only arise from a helical structure [1, pp 167, 169].
Horace Judson Freeman implied that Wilkins had taken Franklin’s famous “photograph 51”  from her drawer to show to Watson . Because of the widespread accusations against him, in at least four separate passages in the book Wilkins tells the circumstances under which he received and gave the crucial photograph to Watson. Two excerpts should suffice to exonerate him:
One day in January 1953, Raymond met me in the corridor and handed me an excellent B pattern that Rosalind and he had taken. For me to be shown raw data in such a way was quite without precedent and, even more extraordinary, Raymond made it clear that I was to keep the photograph! I had recently been relieved to hear that Rosalind was going to leave our lab for a post at Birkbeck College, and was finishing her work. I assumed that my being shown the pattern was connected with her plans to leave, and she was handing over data so that we could follow up what she and Raymond had done….The new pattern showed the helix X-shape more clearly than ever before. Raymond gave me to understand that Rosalind was handing the pattern over to me to use as I wished. A few days later Jim was visiting us, and I stopped him in the main passage of our lab to show him the photograph (pp 197–198).
In retrospect, I had been rather foolish to show it to Jim during our hurried conversation in the corridor. Part of my motive was to justify my exasperation with Rosalind for opposing helical ideas when the evidence seemed to point us clearly in that direction. I had also thought that Jim was already familiar with B patterns—for example, I had already sent Francis a sketch of the helical diffraction I had seen from the sperm heads. Jim’s refusal to accept Rosalind’s anti-helical evidence seemed to show that he was as firmly as ever committed to helical ideas. I did not imagine that the pattern would give Jim much new information or change his attitude to helices. However, I was wrong. Jim later wrote that seeing the pattern had spurred him tremendously to build helical models of DNA. If I had known that, I might well not have shown him the pattern (pp 218–219).
Another fact of which I was unaware was that Crick and Watson generously invited Wilkins to join them as coauthor on the famous publication describing the double-helix model, an invitation that surprised him. He replied, “I could not be co-author as I had not taken part directly in building the model” (p 214). This rejection led, as is well known, to the separate publication of Wilkins’ article  as well as Franklin and Gosling’s article  immediately following that of Watson and Crick’s  in the same issue of Nature.
Wilkins summarizes his thoughts about the discovery:
Let no one hurry to pass judgement on just how we DNA workers behaved in our moment of discovery. Jim, with his conscience and ethical concerns, has written about his intense involvement with genes and his sense of mission to use Pauling’s method of molecular models to find the DNA structure. The very amiable Francis, who never condemned anyone for doing poor science (or for being too slow!), enthusiastically joined in with his helical vision. And then there was me, and all three of us were caught in the whirlwind. None of us was without feelings for others, but, because of all the rush, it was difficult to find time for discussing who had done what (p 229).
Regarding Rosalind’s deserved portion of the credit, he states:
King’s share of the Nobel Prize for the elucidation of the structure and function of nucleic acids was awarded for the large body of work stretching from the late 1940s to the early 1960s, and over that period our group was of various sizes and an ever-changing composition ; and there would be many talented and dedicated colleagues who came and went during those years whose contributions might be compared to Rosalind’s. Undoubtedly Rosalind’s contributions to the DNA structure were considerable, but not necessarily in a different category from those of other workers in our lab. It is true to say that she and I were never close friends, but we had been friendly in the early days of the lab, and before the tensions arose between us I had formed a high opinion of her as a colleague (p 257).
In the spirit of “Audiatur et altera pars” (Let the other side also be heard.) I have cited Wilkins’ remarks about his relationship with Franklin in detail because I fear that his side of the story has until now been neglected or distorted (I was one of those who uncritically accepted the version promulgated by Franklin’s biographers [8, 9] and others .).
However, I would be remiss if I did not at least mention the other aspects of Wilkins’ life and work that he discusses. In addition to other events, both experimental and theoretical, in his work on DNA and other substances, he discusses his and Crick’s attempts to prevent the publication of Watson’s book  (pp 250–251) and a trip to South America that deeply affected him emotionally and led to his concern with the possibility of nuclear war and the future of science and its role in society (“Where would it all end?” p 194). He recounts his experiences with and the concomitant advantages of awards such as the Albert Lasker (1960) and, of course, the Nobel (He was the only one of the three laureates to acknowledge Franklin’s role in the discovery [17, pp 758, 780]; his concerns about the role of scientists in the development of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons; and his activities with the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, British Society for Social Responsibility in Science (He was President in 1969.), and Pugwash conferences.
Wilkins’ book is peppered with phrases like “looking back,” “missed opportunity,” “in retrospect,” “with hindsight,” and “I regret” as well as clauses and sentences like “At that time neither of us saw the obvious explanation” (p 220), “I could not think clearly in all the excitement” (p 215), “All of us embroiled in the DNA affair were preoccupied with our own positions, and had somewhat distorted impressions of what had actually taken place” (p 223), “We might have generated an atmosphere of creative co-operative science in spite of the negative Bragg moratorium” (p 226), “I realize now,” “I now wonder,” and “This may be why we failed to see.” Reading it left me with the sad feeling expressed by American author John Greenleaf Whittier,
For of all sad words of tongue and pen,
The saddest are these: “It might have been!” .
At the present time, in the United States a number of turf battles are taking place between various governmental agencies with disastrous effects on the country as a whole. Unfortunately, this may be part of the human condition. Inasmuch as scientists are human beings, we should not be surprised when similar battles occur in science. Yet, despite the deteriorating state of international relations and the increasing incidents of terrorist attacks, Wilkins remains optimistic and ends his autobiography with the statement: “Perhaps with open dialogue, we may hope for a more creative and joyful community” (p 266).
Wilkins’ book, written consistently with British English spelling and in large type with wide spaces between the lines, consists of ten chapters of approximately equal length and includes 39 plates (formal and informal portraits of Wilkins with family, colleagues, and even with Pope John Paul II; molecular models; chemical samples; sketches and a self-portrait by Wilkins; X-ray diffraction cameras, etc.) and an excellent, detailed (eight double-column pages) index. Except for a few grammatical errors and the misspellings of [Maclyn] “McCarty” as “MacCartey” and [Colin M.] “MacLeod” as “McCloud” (p 185), the text is virtually error-free.
On July 28, 2004 Francis Crick, the oldest of the trio who shared the 1962 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, died at age 88 after a long battle with colon cancer . We are indeed fortunate that Wilkins, who was born only six months later than Crick, has been able to tell his side of the story of the discovery of the double-helical structure of DNA. Will his account end the controversy concerning the events leading up to the epoch-making breakthrough, which has been characterized as “the biological equivalent of Rutherford’s model of the atom in the physical sciences”? We shall have to await the reactions of the advocates of the contributions of Rosalind Franklin and others. Regardless of the final, definitive outcome, if there is one, I recommend this frank, detailed, and engrossing memoir by one of the participants in one of the 20th century’s most important scientific discoveries to both scientists and nonscientists, especially those concerned with the complicated web underlying many discoveries.
References and Notes
1. Watson, J. D. The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of DNA; Atheneum: New York, 1968; Touchstone: New York, 2001.
2. Watson, J. D. Genes, Girls, and Gamow: After the Double Helix; Alfred A. Knopf: New York, 2002.
3. Crick, F. H. C. What Mad Pursuit: A Personal View of Science; BasicBooks: New York, 1988.
4. Crick, F. Life Itself: Its Origins and Nature; Simon and Schuster: New York, 1981.
5. Crick, F. The Astonishing Hypothesis: The Scientific Search for the Soul; Maxwell Macmillan International: New York, 1994.
6. According to Wilkins: “The title of this book, The Third Man of the Double Helix, is not the one I would have chosen. I have deferred to the advice of my publishers on that issue! However, this title does resonate with some of the tensions, accusations, confusions and controversies that have attended the telling and retelling of the DNA story” (p x).
7. Kauffman, G. B.DNA Structure: Happy 50th Birthday! Chem. Educator 2003, 8, 219–230; DOI 10.1333/s00897030695a.
8. Harvey, J.; Ogilvie, M. B. Rosalind Elsie Franklin (1920–1958). In The Biographical Dictionary of Women in Science: Pioneering Lives from Ancient Times to the Mid-20th Century; Ogilvie, M.; Harvey, J., Eds.; Routledge: New York/London, 2000; Vol. 1, pp 465–466; Maddox, B. Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA; HarperCollins Publishers: New York, 2002; Creager, A. N. H. Crystallizing a Life in Science. Am. Sci. 2003, 91, 64–66; Elkin, L. O. Rosalind Franklin and the Double Helix. Physics Today 2003, 56 (March), 42; Rosalind Franklin: the woman behind the DNA helix. Chem. & Ind. 2003, 8 (April 21), 13; Kauffman, G. B. Rosalind Franklin: English Molecular Biologist 1920–1958. In Chemistry: Foundations and Applications; Lagowski, J. J., Ed.; Macmillan Reference USA.: New York, NY, 2004, Volume 2, pp 123–125.
9. Sayre, A. Rosalind Franklin and DNA; W. W. Norton & Co.: New York, 1975, 2001.
10. Secret of Photo 51. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/photo51 (accessed Sept 2004). This Web site includes a number of links to an article (“Before Watson and Crick”), an interview (“Defending Franklin’s Legacy”), a slide show (“Picturing the Molecules of Life”), interactives (“Anatomy of Photo 51” and “Journey into DNA”), and other resources.
11. I was unable to discover any details about Ruth, the marriage, or the child. Although Wilkins is reticent about Ruth, he has included her picture as Plate 17.
12. Watson, J. D.; Crick, F. H. C. A Structure for Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid. Nature 1953, 171, 737–738.
13. Judson, H. F. The Eighth Day of Creation: Makers of the Revolution in Biology; Simon and Schuster: New York, 1979.
14. Wilkins, M. H. F.; Stokes, A. R.; Wilson, H. R. Molecular Structure of Deoxypentose Nucleic Acids. Nature 1953, 171, 738–740; http://www.nature.com/nature/dna50/wilkins.pdf (accessed Sept 2004).
15. Franklin, R.; Gosling, R. G. Molecular Configuration in Sodium Thymonucleate. Nature 1953, 171, 740–741; http://www.nature.com/nature/dna50/franklingosling.pdf (accessed Sept 2004).
16. The prize was not awarded specifically for DNA but “for their discoveries concerning the molecular structure of nucleic acids and its significance for information transfer in living material” [The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1962. http://www.nobel.se/medicine/laureates/1962 (accessed Sept 2004)].
17. Wilkins, M. H. F. The Molecular Configuration of Nucleic Acids. In The Nobel Foundation, Nobel Lectures including Presentation Speeches and Laureates’ Biographies: Physiology or Medicine 1942-1962; Elsevier Publishing Company: Amsterdam—London—New York, 1964; pp 754–782; http://www.nobel.se/medicine/ laureates/1962/wilkins-lecture.pdf (accessed Sept 2004).
18. Whittier, J. G. Maud Muller; Ticknor and Fields: Boston, MA, 1867; stanza 53.
19. Pilcher, H. Francis Crick: DNA code-breaker dies at 88. http://www.nature.com/news/2004/040726/pf/040726_pf.html.
George B. Kauffman
California State University, Fresno, email@example.com
Giant Molecules: Essential Materials for Everyday Living and Problem Solving, 2nd Edition. By Charles E. Carraher, Jr. Wiley-Interscience: Hoboken, NJ, 2003. Figures, tables. xvi + 483 pp, hardbound, 16.1 ´ 24.1 cm. $115.00. ISBN 0-471-27399-6
The production of polymers is the world’s second largest industry (Does anyone out there know what the world’s largest industry is? Is it food?). According to Charles E. Carraher, Jr., Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, Florida, Associate Director of the Florida Center for Environmental Studies, and the author or editor of more than 40 books on the subject,
On a manufacturing level, the number of persons in the synthetic polymer industry alone is greater than those employed in all the metal-based industries combined. More than 60% of all chemical and industrial employment in the United States involves synthetic polymers (p 85).
The American polymer industry employs more than a million persons directly and indirectly. It is the largest employer of professional chemists and chemical engineers, about half of whom work in polymer science and technology, including monomer and polymer synthesis and polymer characterization. The need for such scientists will increase as the industry continues to expand. Also, after food-related materials, synthetic polymers comprise the largest U.S. export market, both in quantity and in monetary value.
Polymer science and technology are essential for our housing, clothing, food, and health needs because polymeric materials are ubiquitous in our everyday lives. Yet recognition of its importance has been slow in coming. Hermann Staudinger, the
father of macromolecular science, whose pioneering work dated from the 1920s, did not receive the Nobel Prize in Chemistry until 1953. Furthermore, although polymer science education was emphasized in Japan, Russia, and West Germany, at about the time of the first edition (1990) of Giant Molecules (the senior author of which was the late Raymond B. Seymour), only 16 American universities had polymer science departments (American Chemical Society Directory of Graduate Research, 1989). Some progress in this regard has been made; by 2002 the number of U.S. universities with Polymers and Materials Science departments had increased to 28 (American Chemical Society Directory of Graduate Research, 2003). This number needs to be increased in the hundred or so American colleges that offer some training in the field if the United States is to maintain its position of world scientific leadership.
Many books on polymers exist for the numerous scientists employed in the plastics, rubber, fiber, coatings, and adhesives industries, but the first edition of Giant Molecules was the first readily understandable one written specifically for the nonscientist concerned with these essential materials. Like the first edition, the second edition is sponsored by the Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE). It includes information on chemistry, biology, physics, earth science, and engineering to give the reader a breadth of knowledge about the world and the polymer age in which we live. Assuming no previous knowledge of chemistry or polymer science and requiring minimal mathematics, this text admirably succeeds in conveying not only the history, development, and facts of polymer science in particular but also the importance and excitement of science in general.
Giant Molecules begins with general basics written so that persons without any previous scientific training will be able to understand polymer science. It moves rapidly to material that forms these basics and presents general fundamentals that apply to all materials and especially to polymers. The first three chapters amount to concise, self-contained, miniature courses in general chemistry, organic chemistry, and polymer chemistry, respectively. The fourth chapter considers the relationships between the properties and structure of polymers, and in the subsequent chapters, using the idea of the giant molecule as a unifying thread, Carraher guides the reader through a variety of different polymeric materials.
Because polymers lend themselves well to a pictorial presentation of the basic principles that govern their properties, this approach is used throughout the text, which, in addition to including many formulas and equations, is replete with numerous drawings, pictures, figures, and structures to convey general principles and to demonstrate why different polymers behave in different ways. For example, some giant molecules are suitable for long-term memory present in the human genome, whereas others are strong, allowing their use in bullet-resistant vests (Kevlar). Some are flexible and used in automotive dashboards and rubber bands, others are good adhesives used to form space-age composites, and still others are strong and flexible and form the clothes that we wear.
The volume is arranged so that the earlier chapters introduce background information needed for the later chapters. Basic principles are dispersed and interwoven with illustrations that reinforce them in practical and applied terms introduced throughout the text. The material is presented in a concise, lucid, and integrated manner that combines fundamentals with illustrative applications.
For those who already own the first edition (xiii + 314 pp) and contemplate purchasing the second edition (xvi + 483 pp), the following comparison should be useful. The order of some of the chapters has been changed, necessitating new numbering, and a new chapter (No. 12, on composites) has been added. The data on the second edition is followed by data on the first edition:
· Chap. 1, “The Building Blocks of Our World” (30 pp); Chap. 1 (20 pp).
· Chap. 2, “Small Organic Molecules” (25 pp); Chap. 2 (19 pp).
· Chap. 3, “Introduction to the Science of Giant Molecules” (37 pp); Chap. 3 (27 pp).
· Chap. 4, “Relationships Between the Properties and Structures of Giant Molecules” (18 pp); Chap. 4 (12 pp).
· Chap. 5, “Physical and Chemical Testing of Polymers” (20 pp); Chap. 8 (10 pp).
· Chap. 6, “Thermoplastics” (49 pp, the longest chapter); Chap. 12 (34 pp, the longest chapter).
· Chap. 7, “Engineering Plastics” (26 pp); Chap. 14 (19 pp).
· Chap. 8, “Thermosets” (19 pp); Chap. 13 (19 pp).
· Chap. 9, “Fibers” (22 pp); Chap. 9 (19 pp).
· Chap. 10, “Rubber (Elastomers)” (24 pp); Chap. 10 (17 pp).
· Chap. 11, “Paints, Coatings, Sealants, and Adhesives” (17 pp); Chap. 11 (14 pp).
· Chap. 12, “Composites” (13 pp, a new chapter).
· Chap. 13, “Nature’s Giant Molecules: The Plant Kingdom” (21 pp); Chap. 5 (15 pp).
· Chap. 14, “Nature’s Giant Molecules: The Animal Kingdom” (35 pp); Chap. 6 (19 pp).
· Chap. 15, “Derivatives of Natural Polymers” (14 pp); Chap. 7 (13 pp).
· Chap. 16, “Inorganic Polymers” (25 pp); Chap. 15 (12 pp).
· Chap. 17, “Specialty Polymers” (19 pp); Chap. 16 (11 pp).
· Chap. 18, “Additives and Starting Materials” (20 pp); Chap. 17 (15 pp).
· Chap. 19, “The Future of Giant Molecules” (9 pp, the shortest chapter); Chap. 18 (4 pp, the shortest chapter).
The volume is packed with information, making it also useful as a general reference source. It includes 120 figures and photographs as well as 61 tables, as compared to 86 and 49, respectively, in the previous edition. It is thoroughly up to date, and each of the 19 chapters is provided with a bibliography of mostly books, some as recent as 2002. Clearly intended as a textbook, except for the last chapter, each chapter contains a glossary of technical terms and scientists’ names and review questions, each one with a concise answer (as many as 24 in one chapter, with a total of 286 for the entire book). Many of the questions are imaginative or relevant to everyday life, for example, “Why was former President Reagan called the Teflon President?” (p 91).
Two appendices of three pages each that were not included in the first edition are “Studying Giant Molecules” (helpful ideas for the student) and “Electronic Web Sites” (classified as PolyEd [the joint polymer education site for the ACS Divisions of Polymer Chemistry and Polymeric Materials: Science and Engineering] and IPEC [a joint society group that focuses on K-12 science education using polymers as the connective material]; Biomacromolecules; Nano Materials; Coatings; and Others). The index of the first edition has been expanded from 10 double-column pages to 21 double-column pages.
The book could have benefited from more careful proofreading. The typographical error “straches” (for “starches”) on the first page of the preface (p xv) makes a particularly bad impression. Most of the errors occur among proper names, for example, “George Bedorz” for “Georg Bednorz” and “Muller” for “Müller” (p 397). Furthermore, a number of misspellings in the first edition have not been corrected: “Camile” for “Camille” (Dreyfus) (p 368), “Hofman” for “Hofmann” (p 258), “Tschunker” for Tschunkur” (p 259), “Altimara” for “Altamira” and “Laucaux” for “Lascaux” (p 276), and “Peckman” for “Pechmann” (p 139).
Giant Molecules should appeal to the scientist or technician who seeks information on plastics, paints, textiles, adhesives, fabrics, fibers, rubbers, and composites as well as to students required to include a basic science course in their university or college curriculum. It may also find use in high schools or trade schools and as an alternative advanced elective course to fulfill a science requirement in high school. Citizens who wish to be informed about polymers should also find it useful.
George B. Kauffman
California State University, Fresno, firstname.lastname@example.org