The Chemical Educator, Vol. 11, No.3, Media Reviews, © 2006 The Chemical Educator


Media Review

Michael Faraday: Physics and Faith. Colin A. Russell. Oxford Portraits in Science Series, Owen Gingerich, General Editor; Oxford University Press: New York, 2000. Illustrations. 124 pp, hardcover. 17.3 ´ 24.2 cm. $28.00. ISBN 0-19-511763-8.

Colin A. Russell, Emeritus Professor, Department of History of Science and Technology (which he founded in 1970) at the Open University, and Affiliated Research Scholar, Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge, views the history of science from a Christian perspective. He has expounded his goal of humanity’s acting as God’s steward in cherishing and preserving the environment in books such as Science and Religious Belief [1]and The Earth, Humanity, and God [2].Thus he is the ideal scholar to have written the biography of Michael Faraday, a devout Christian of the Sandemanian sect, under review here. The subtitle of his book reflects the prominent role that religion played in Faraday’s life [3]. A chemist who received the Dexter Award in the History of Chemistry in 1990, Russell has also written or edited books on the history of “the central science” [4–11].

Oxford Portraits in Science is an ongoing series of scientific biographies for young adults, written by prominent scholars and writers. Each book examines the personality of its subject and the thought process leading to his or her discoveries. They combine accessible technical information with compelling personal stories to portray the scientists whose work has shaped our understanding of the natural world. Volumes have been devoted to Charles Babbage, Alexander Graham Bell, Nicolaus Copernicus, Francis Crick & James Watson, Marie Curie, Charles Darwin, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Enrico Fermi, Benjamin Franklin, Sigmund Freud, Galileo Galilei, William Harvey, Joseph Henry, Edward Jenner, Johannes Kepler, Othniel Charles Marsh & Edward Drinker Cope, Gregor Mendel, Margaret Mead, Isaac Newton, Louis Pasteur, Linus Pauling, and Ivan Pavlov. Owen Gingerich, the series Editor, is Research Professor of Astronomy and the History of Science Emeritus at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics at Cambridge, Massachusetts and the author of more than 400 books and reviews.

Michael Faraday (1791–1867), described as “the greatest experimental philosopher of all time” (by John Tyndall), “the father of the enlarged science of electromagnetism” (by James Clerk Maxwell), and “the inspiring influence of my early love of electricity” (by Lord Kelvin), was born on September 22, 1791 in London. According to Russell, “he has been the subject of more biographies than even Newton and Einstein” (p 116).

One of Britain’s most famous and articulate communicators of science, Faraday, the son of a blacksmith, described his education as “little more than the rudiments of reading, writing, and arithmetic at a common day-school” (p 21). However, from such humble beginnings he became one of the most prolific and wide-ranging experimental scientists who ever lived. Although almost completely self-taught in science, while apprenticed to a bookbinder, he acquired his knowledge by reading diverse sources such as the Encyclopædia Britannica, Thomas Thomson’s four-volume System of Chemistry (1807), and Jane Marcet’s (whose portrait appears on p 28) Conversations in Chemistry (1806). In 1812 he heard Sir Humphry Davy (1779–1829) [12–15] lecture to the public at the recently established Royal Institution (RI). The following year, after presenting Davy with a bound set of his own notes of Davy’s lectures, Faraday was appointed Davy’s assistant and spent 1813–1815 accompanying Davy and his new bride on a scientific tour of Europe. Like his mentor, Faraday was to excel in lecturing to juvenile or nonscientist audiences, and in 1827 he inaugurated the RI’s annual “Christmas Lectures,” which laid the foundation for popular scientific communication and which continues to the present day in Britain. Faraday presented his most famous lecture, “The Chemistry of a Candle” (excerpted on p 76–77), in December, 1861.

In 1815 Faraday became Assistant and Superintendent of Apparatus at the RI, and during 1815–1816 he worked with Davy on Davy’s celebrated miners’ safety lamp, a diagram of which appears on p 51 [10]. In 1821 he married Sarah Barnard, joined the Sandemanian church, and carried out his first experiments on electromagnetic rotation. Although he is remembered primarily for his contributions to physics rather than chemistry, during his first decade at the RI he discovered two chlorides of carbon (1821–1822) (the reaction scheme for their formation appears on p 56, the only chemical equation in the book) and benzene and isobutylene (1825), and he liquefied gases (1823–1824). In 1829 he accepted a part-time professorship at the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich. In 1831 he discovered electromagnetic induction, thereby establishing the field of electromagnetism and leading to the invention of the dynamo and electric motor. In 1833 he proposed his famous laws of electrolysis. He was appointed Scientific Adviser to Trinity House, the body responsible for all the lighthouses around the coasts of England and Wales, and he worked on electrostatics and dielectrics.

In 1840 Faraday was appointed an elder in the Sandemanian church, and in 1845 he studied diamagnetism, paramagnetism, and magneto-optics. In 1849 he attempted to unite gravity and electricity. In 1858 Queen Victoria gave him a rent-free house at Hampton Court. In 1861 he resigned his RI professorship, and the following year he studied the effects of magnetic fields on spectral lines. He died in his home on August 25, 1867 while sitting quietly in his study chair.

All these events—and more—are empathically but critically described by Russell in the context of nineteenth-century science and society. Because the publishers do not permit inclusion of footnotes in the series, these do not appear in his book. However, he has consulted primary in addition to secondary sources in its preparation. The book contains 37 unnumbered illustrations and diagrams, including portraits, woodcuts, photographs, title pages, apparatus, buildings, a sketch by Faraday (p 39), diary excerpts (p 62), a souvenir handbill of Faraday’s lectures (p 75), laboratory notes (p 82), letters (p 98), and cartoons (pp 36, 70, and 109), including James Gillray’s frequently published cartoon of Davy’s lecture on the physiological effects of nitrous oxide (laughing gas) at the RI (p 36) [16].

Some idea of the scope and content of the book can be gleaned from the titles and lengths of the ten brief chapters:

Chapter 1, “The Theater of Science” (5 pp, the shortest chapter)

Chapter 2, “Faraday’s Roots” (7 pp)

Chapter 3, “In London: The Bookbinder’s Apprentice” (12 pp)

Chapter 4, “The Royal Institution” (11 pp)

Chapter 5, “Early Chemical Experiments” (11 pp)

Chapter 6, “The Beginnings of Electromagnetic Research” (9 pp)

Chapter 7, “Chemistry and Communication” (13 pp)

Chapter 8, “Deeper into Electricity—and Magnetism” (15 pp, the longest chapter)

Chapter 9, “Electromagnetism: ‘At Play in the Fields of the Lord’” (7 pp)

Chapter 10, “Waning Years” (11 pp)

Russell’s book includes four primary source sidebars—“A Keen Mind” (p 13), “The First Chemical Revolution” (pp 49–50), “Different Kinds of Magnets” (p 61), and “The Chemical History of a Candle” (p 76–77). It also contains a chronology of Faraday’s life and career (pp 118–119); suggestions for further reading (some as recent as 1991, classified into books by Faraday, books about Faraday, and books about the Royal Institution (pp 120–121)); and an index (three triple-column pages), which facilitates location of material.

In his book Russell convincingly blends Faraday’s belief in the compatibility of his religion with his science with his own beliefs on this subject:

Although Michael Faraday was in a class of his own where science was concerned—a giant among pygmies—he was typical of many gifted scientists in his synthesis of science and Christianity, in his strong confidence in the authority of Scripture, and in his simple faith in Christ. For them, and for him, the task of scientific exploration was not only exciting and satisfying. In a very real sense it was a Christian vocation. Nothing less than this can enable us to understand the life and achievements of Michael Faraday (p 117).

This informative, engrossing, and inspiring book makes an ideal gift for young persons exhibiting a budding interest in science. However, it should also appeal to a much wider audience as a relatively short but accurate biography of one of science’s greatest luminaries.

References and Notes

1.       Russell, C. A., Ed. Science and Religious Belief: A Selection of Recent Historical Studies; Hodder & Stoughton: London; University of London Press: London, 1973.

2.       Russell, C. A. The Earth, Humanity, and God: The Templeton Lectures; University College London Press [now Taylor & Francis]: London, 1993.

3.       The Faraday Institute for Science and Religion, St. Edmund’s College, University of Cambridge, CB3 OBN, UK,, (accessed May 2006) features research, courses, bursaries, lectures, seminars, links to Faraday’s papers, and other pertinent information.

4.       Russell, C. A. Sir Humphry Davy; Open University Press: Milton Keynes, England, 1972.

5.       Russell, C. A. The History of Valency; Humanities Press: New York, NY, 1971. For reviews see Kauffman, G. B. Isis 1972, 63, 563–566 and J. Chem. Educ. 1973, 50, A105.

6.       Russell, C. A. Lancastrian Chemist: The Early Years of Sir Edward Frankland; Open University Press: Milton Keynes, England, 1986.

7.       Russell, C. A., Ed. Recent Developments in the History of Chemistry; Royal Society of Chemistry: Cambridge, England, 1986.

8.       Morris, P. J. T.; Russell, C. A., Eds. Archives of the British Chemical Industry 1750-1914: A Handlist; BSHS Monograph 6; British Society for the History of Science: Faringdon, England, 1988.

9.      Russell, C. A. Edward Frankland: Chemistry, Controversy and Conspiracy in Victorian England; Cambridge University Press: Cambridge/New York/Melbourne, 1996. For a review see Kauffman, G. B.; Kauffman, L. M. Angew. Chem., Int. Ed. Engl. 1997, 36, 1657–1658.

10.     Russell, C. A., Ed. Chemistry, Society, and Environment: A New History of the British Chemical Industry; Royal Society of Chemistry: Cambridge, England, 2000. For a review see Kauffman, G. B. Chem. Educator 2002, 7, 181–182; DOI 10.1333/s00897030568a.

11.     Roberts, G. K.; Russell, C. A., Eds. Chemical History: Reviews of the Recent Literature; Royal Society of Chemistry: Cambridge, England, 2005.

12.     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 (August 2), 71 (31), 32–33 and Chem. & Ind. 1999 (March 1), 5, 186–187.

13.     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.

14.     Davy, J., Ed. The Collected Works of Sir Humphry Davy; Introd. by D. M. Knight; 9 volumes; Thoemmes Press: Bristol, UK; Sterling, VA, 2001. For a review see Kauffman, G. B. Chem. Educator 2004, 9, 337–339; DOI 10.1333/s00897040832a.

15.     Lamont-Davies, R. Humphry Davy: Life beyond the Lamp; Sutton Publishing Ltd.: Phoenix Mill, Thrupp, Stroud, Gloucestershire, England, 2004. For a review see Kauffman, G. B. Chem. Educator 2006, 11, 138–140; DOI 10.1333/s00897061018a.

16.     For a discussion of James Gillray’s famous caricature of a lecture at the Royal Institution involving the administration of nitrous oxide and depicting a gleeful 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 (January), 299, 20–22. For a color version of the caricature and information on the preparation of N2O log onto (accessed May 2006).

George B. Kauffman

California State University, Fresno,

S1430-4171(06)31042-9, 10.1333/s00897061042a

Joseph Priestley, Radical Thinker: A Catalogue to Accompany the Exhibit at the Chemical Heritage Foundation Commemorating the 200th Anniversary of the Death of Joseph Priestley 23 August 2004 to 29 July 2005. Mary Ellen Bowden and Lisa Rosner, Eds.; Chemical Heritage Foundation: 315 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106, 2005. Telephone: (800) 247-6553; http://www.chemheritage .org/. Illustrations. 72 pp, paperbound. 21.5 ´ 25.9 cm. $19.95 plus postage and handling for U.S.A. and Canada ($5.00 for first book; $2.00 for each additional book); elsewhere ($9.00 for first book; $4.00 for each additional book); sales tax applies only to orders shipped to PA and OH (PA 7%, OH 6.75%); outside U.S. and Canada call (419) 281-1802. ISBN 0-941901-38-6.

Joseph Priestley (1733–1804) was the English-born discoverer of oxygen, which he called “dephlogisticated air,” and other gases such as ammonia (NH3), silicon(IV) fluoride (SiF4), sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitric oxide (NO), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), nitrous oxide (laughing gas, N2O), and anhydrous hydrogen chloride (HCl) [1]. He used the pneumatic trough filled with mercury to collect water-soluble gases and is considered to be the founder of pneumatic chemistry. His work with carbon dioxide (“fixed air”) led to his discovery of carbonated water, now known as “soda water” or “seltzer,” which he recommended to everyone. He also advanced our knowledge of photosynthesis and the role of blood in respiration.

The author of more than 200 books, articles, and pamphlets, Priestley also served as a Unitarian minister and teacher. His religious and political views resulted in the burning of his home and laboratory in Birmingham and his subsequent emigration to the United States. He settled about 150 miles northwest of Philadelphiain Northumberland, Pennsylvania, (now an American Chemical Society (ACS) National Historic Chemical Landmark), helped establish the First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia, one of America’s first Unitarian congregations [2], and was acquainted with many contemporary American statesmen and scientists such as John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin. Although he discovered oxygen, he went to his grave believing that the now defunct phlogiston theory explained the phenomenon of combustion better than Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier’s new chemistry. The National Chemical Congress, a meeting of American chemists at his Northumberland home in 1874, was the first such national meeting before the formation of the ACS two years later. The ACS’s highest award, the Priestley Medal, is named in his honor, and he is the subject of numerous books and articles [3–9].

To commemorate the 200th anniversary of Priestley’s death three events were held at the 228th ACS National Meeting in Philadelphia August, 22–26, 2004—(1) “Joseph Priestley, Universal Catalyst: A Bicentennial Celebration of His Life,” a two-day (August 23–24) symposium, sponsored by the Division of the History of Chemistry (HIST) and cosponsored by the Division of Chemical Education (CHED) that featured 17 papers; (2) “Working the Frontiers of Chemistry,” a symposium honoring recipients of the Priestley Medal, at the Chemical Heritage Foundation; and (3) an exhibit there, “Joseph Priestley, Radical Thinker,” which was formally opened by seven Priestley medalists. The copiously illustrated catalogue for the exhibit, edited by Mary Ellen Bowden, Senior Research Historian at CHF, and Lisa Rosner, Professor of History at the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey and 2005 RoyG. Neville Fellow at CHF, is the subject of this review.

The exhibit included objects and images from its own collections and from other organizations, collections, and individuals. The catalogue consists of four essays:

·  “Joseph Priestley: Public Intellectual” by Robert Anderson, former Keeper of Chemistry at the Science Museum, London and Director of the National Museums of Scotland, Edinburgh, and most recently Director of the British Museum, London (pp 11–16, the shortest essay) [6];

·  “Priestley’s Nose: Caricatures from the Derek A. Davenport and Margaret A. Aydelotte Collections” by Marjorie Gapp, Curator of Arts and Images at CHF (pp 17–29);

·  “Memorializing Scientists: The Case of Joseph Priestley” by Robert Anderson (pp 30–41); and

·  “Joseph Priestley, Radical Thinker” by Mary Ellen Bowden and Lisa Rosner (pp 42–71, the longest essay) [3].

All the essays except the first include notes or bibliographies, and a Priestley chronology concludes the volume, which is replete with full-color illustrations of Priestley’s laboratory apparatus (glassware, telescope, microscope, etc.), title pages and pictures from his published works, statues, plaques, portraits, letters, medals, and bookplates.

I am pleased to recommend this beautiful, relatively inexpensive (considering the number and quality of the illustrations) volume to anyone interested in the life and career of one of chemistry’s greatest luminaries.

References and Notes

1.       Although Swedish chemist and apothecary Carl Wilhelm Scheele preceded Priestley in this discovery, priority is given to the latter because he published his results first.

2.       Borman, S. From the ACS Meeting: Joseph Priestley Remembered: Discoverer of oxygen and other gases played key role in history of chemistry. Chem. Eng. News September 20, 2004, 82 (32), 41–45.

3.       Bowden, M. E.; Hicks, R. D. Joseph Priestley, Radical Thinker. Chem. Heritage Fall 2004, 22 (3), 24–25; (accessed May 2006).

4.       Knight, D. Remembering Joseph Priestley. Educ. Chem. 2004, 41, 98–100.

5.       Pizzi, R. A. Joseph Priestley: A Life. Today’s Chemist at Work October 2004, 13 (10), 37–39.

6.       Anderson, R. Joseph Priestley, Public Intellectual. Chem. Heritage Spring 2005, 23 (1), 6–9, 36–38.

7.       Schofield, R. E., Ed. A Scientific Biography of Joseph Priestley (17331804): Selected Scientific Correspondence; MIT Press: Cambridge, MA, 1966.

8.       Schofield, R. E. The Enlightenment of Joseph Priestley: A Study of His Life and Work from 1733 to 1773; Pennsylvania State University Press: University Park, PA, 1997.

9.       Schofield, R. E. The Enlightenment of Joseph Priestley: A Study of His Life and Work from 1773 to 1804; Pennsylvania State University Press: University Park, PA, 2004. Schofield was one of the participants at the ACS Priestley symposium, where he autographed copies of this newly published book.

George B. Kauffman

California State University, Fresno,

S1430-4171(06)31043-8, 10.1333/s00897061043a

Beyond Oil and Gas: The Methanol Economy. George A. Olah, Alain Goeppert, and G. K. Surya Prakash; Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA: Weinheim, Germany, 2006. Illustrations. xiv + 290 pp, hardbound. 17.5 ´ 24.5 cm. $35.00; €24.90; SFR40.00. ISBN 3-527-31275-7.

George A. Olah, Distinguished Professor and Director of the Loker Hydrocarbon Institute at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, received the 1994 Nobel Prize in Chemistry “for his contributions to carbocation chemistry” [1–3]. Born in 1927 in Budapest, he received his doctorate from the Technical University of Budapest. In 1956 he left Hungary and emigrated to the United States. The author of more than 1300 scientific articles, the author or editor of 15 books [4], and the holder of more than 120 patents, he has received numerous awards and honors, including five American Chemical Society national awards: the George A. Olah Award in Hydrocarbon or Petroleum Chemistry (1964), Award for Creative Work in Synthetic Organic Chemistry (1979), Roger Adams Award in Organic Chemistry (1989), Arthur C. Cope Award (2001), and the Priestley Medal, the society’s highest award (2005). His current research interests involve the hydrocarbon chemistry and energy areas dealing with various aspects of the methanol economy.

Alain Goeppert, Research Associate at the Loker Hydrocarbon Institute, was born in 1974 in Strasbourg, France. He received his technician diploma in chemistry from the Université Robert Schuman, his Diplom-Ingenieur degree from the Fachhochschule Aachen, Germany, and his PhD from the Université Louis Pasteur in Strasbourg. His current research is centered on the transformation of methane and carbon dioxide into more useful products and CO2 capture technologies.

G. K. Surya Prakash, Olah Nobel Laureate Professor in Hydrocarbon Chemistry at the University of Southern California, was born in Bangalore, India in 1953. After receiving his B.S. and M.S. degrees from Bangalore University and the Indian Institute of Technology in Madras, respectively, in 1974 he moved to the United States and received his PhD at USC under Professor Olah in 1978. The author of more than 500 scientific papers and the author or editor of seven books, he is the recipient of many honors, including the American Chemical Society’s Award for Creative Work in Fluorine Chemistry (2004) and the George A. Olah Award in Hydrocarbon or Petroleum Chemistry (2006). His research interests include superacid, hydrocarbon, synthetic organic, and organofluorine chemistry as well as energy and catalysis.

From the most ancient times our primitive forebears have required not only food, water, shelter, and materials for clothing but also increasing amounts of energy. Since cavemen discovered how to kindle fire, they employed a variety of sources for cooking and heating, initially wood and vegetation, then peat moss and other carbon-based fuels. Since the industrial revolution, the primary source of energy was coal, to which, during the 20th century, oil and gas was added. Once they are burnt these three resources—“fossil fuels”—formed over eons by Nature—are not renewable on our human time scale and are therefore being increasingly depleted by overuse. The world’s accessible oil and gas reserves, the control of which many, if not the majority, of the world’s population believes has been the reason for the decision of the Bush administration to invade Iraq, may not last much after the 21st century, while coal reserves may be available for only one or at most two centuries.

Olah, Goeppert, and Prakash’s book proposes a dramatically new approach to this problem based on what they call the “Methanol Economy”:

The production of methanol [CH3OH] directly from still-available fossil fuel sources, and the recycling of carbon dioxide via hydrogenative reductions, are—we believe—feasible and convenient ways to store energy generated from all sources including alternative energy sources (solar, hydro, wind, geothermal, etc.) and atomic energy. In the short term, new efficient production of methanol not only from still-available gas resources (without going through the syn-gas route) but also by the hydrogenative conversion of carbon dioxide from industrial exhausts, offer feasible new routes. In the long term, recycling of the carbon dioxide captured from the air itself will be possible. Air, in contrast to oil and gas resources, is available to everybody on Earth, and its CO2 content represent [sic] an inexhaustible recyclable carbon resource. Methanol produced from this CO2 (using any energy source to produce the required hydrogen from water), is an excellent fuel on its own for internal combustion engines or fuel cells of the future. It can also be readily converted, via its dehydration to ethylene [H2C=CH2] and propylene [CH3CH=CH2], into synthetic hydrocarbons and their products. Consequently, it can free mankind’s dependence on our diminishing oil and natural gas (even coal) resources. At the same time, by being able to recycle excess CO2 we can mitigate or eliminate a major source of global climate change—that is, warming of the Earth—caused by human activities (p x).

Many of the book’s 14 chapters conclude with outlook sections that summarize that chapter’s contents and its consequences for the future. Chapter 1, “Introduction” (10 pp), presents background material on the increase in world population, energy consumption, electricity generation, and oil and natural reserves, and it summarizes the “Methanol Economy” and its far-reaching implications. Chapter 2, “Coal in the Industrial Revolution and Beyond” (7 pp), sketches the history of the use of coal and its advantages and disadvantages, while Chapter 3, “History of Oil and Natural Gas” (9 pp), does the same for oil and gas. Chapter 4, “Fossil Fuel Resources and Uses” (24 pp), defines the notions of reserve and resource so the reader can understand how the available amount of a given source of energy is determined. It then applies these concepts to various fuels, including, in addition to those already discussed, tar sands, oil shale, liquid natural gas, coalbed methane, tight sands and shales, and methane hydrates. 

Chapter 5, “Diminishing Oil and Gas Reserves” (9 pp), convincingly demonstrates that these fuels are finite and that new solutions must be considered to replace them. Chapter 6, “The Continuing Need for Hydrocarbons and their Products” (12 pp), describes steps in the refining process such as fractional distillation and thermal cracking, as well as the role of hydrocarbons. Chapter 7, “Fossil Fuels and Climate Change” (12 pp), discusses one of the most pressing and severe global environmental problems facing humanity and how it may be mitigated. Chapter 8, “Renewable Energy Sources and Atomic Energy” (49 pp, the longest chapter), considers hydropower, geothermal energy, wind energy, solar energy, biomass energy, ocean energy (thermal, tidal, and wave power), and both fission and fusion nuclear energy with detailed treatment of economics, safety, radiation hazards, byproducts, and waste. 

Chapter 9, “The Hydrogen Economy and its Limitations” (35 pp), deals with the discovery, properties, production (from biomass, electrolysis of water, and nuclear energy), storage, safety, and uses of hydrogen, widely touted as the inexhaustible, non-polluting fuel of the future. It also describes the development of hydrogen energy, liquid hydrogen, compressed hydrogen, metal hydrides and solid absorbents, and fuel cells, especially their application to transportation. Chapter 10, “The ‘Methanol Economy’: General Aspects” (5 pp, the shortest chapter), outlines this feasible means for liberating mankind from its dependence on diminishing oil and gas resources while simultaneously utilizing all sources of alternative energies. Chapter 11, “Methanol as a Fuel and Energy Carrier” (36 pp), reviews the properties, history, and safety aspects of “wood alcohol,” its use, along with that of dimethyl ether, as transportation fuel and diesel fuel substitutes in compression ignition engines, direct methanol fuel cells, and other fuel cells, and it concludes that methanol, compared to gasoline or diesel fuel, is clearly environmentally much safer and less toxic.

Chapter 12, “Production of Methanol from Syn-Gas to Carbon Dioxide” (37 pp), explores syn-gas (a mixture of hydrogen, carbon monoxide, and carbon dioxide) and other substances as sources of methanol. Chapter 13, “Methanol-Based Chemicals, Synthetic Hydrocarbons and Materials” (8 pp), describes the conversion of methanol to olefins, synthetic hydrocarbons, and proteins. Chapter 14, “Future Perspectives” (6 pp), summarizes in a masterly manner the contents of the book and the advantages of the “Methanol Economy”.

This cross-referenced volume contains 17 tables, 107 figures (some full-page), numerous chemical equations and reaction schemes, three pages of acronyms, units, and abbreviations, as well as 14 pages of articles, books and Internet websites, some as recent as 2005, classified into various categories, for further reading and information. Nine pages of 238 references, some as recent as 2005, are also provided, and a detailed index (eight double-column pages) make the book extremely user-friendly.

We are fully aware that to solve our outlined problems for the future, including energy storage and transportation, non-oil- and gas-based fuels and raw materials for the production of synthetic hydrocarbons and their products (to which we are accustomed in our everyday life) and new approaches are needed. Much has been said about the future in view of our diminishing and non-renewable fossil fuel resources. The outlined “Methanol Economy” is one of the feasible and achievable solutions, which deserves serious further consideration and development. We hope that this book will call more attention to this approach, and spur future activities in the area (p xi).

In my opinion the authors have eminently achieved their goal, and I am pleased to recommend most enthusiastically this inexpensive, forward-looking, and inspiring book to anyone concerned with the major challenge of future energy and environmental problems—a central issue for our society.


1.       Kauffman, G. B.; Kauffman, L. M. George Andrew Olah: An Interview with the 1994 Nobel Chemistry Laureate. Chem. Intelligencer April, 1995,  1(2), 6–13.

2.       Kauffman, G. B.; Kauffman, L. M. Scientists: Past and Present: The Master of Hydrocarbons: George Olah has radically expanded our understanding and mastery of the processes by which we make fuels, lubricants, plastics, and pharmaceuticals. The World & I September, 1995, 1 0(9), 168–175.

3.       Kauffman, G. B.; Kauffman, L. M. Profiles in Chemistry: Nobel Superchemist: For Olah, awarded the 1994 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his seminal research on 'superacids' and carbocations, chemistry has been a full-time hobby. Today's Chemist at Work September, 1995, 4 (8), 53–54, 72.

4.       Olah, G. A. A Life of Magic Chemistry: Autobiographical Reflections of a Nobel Prize Winner; Wiley-Interscience: New York, 2001. For reviews see Kauffman, G. B.; Kauffman, L. M. Chem. Educator 2002, 7, 241–243; DOI 0.1333/s00897020587a; Chem. Heritage Winter, 2002, 20 (4), 34.

George B. Kauffman

California State University, Fresno,

S1430-4171(06)31044-7, 10.1333/s00897061044a

FunBased Learning Chemistry Resource. By Sulan Dunn

The FunBased Learning Chemistry Web site offers four educational online activities for the novice chemistry student (early secondary school level) to reinforce basic knowledge of elemental symbols and to practice balancing chemical equations. Accompanying downloadable worksheets are available on the Web site as well.

Activity: Element Quiz

Why the creator describes the activities on the homepage as “fun games” is unclear, as the four resources are in fact one multiple-choice quiz and three (nearly identical) fill-in-the-blank activities. The element quiz provides 43 questions relating to a total of 25 elements (19 main group/6 transitional). One positive aspect of the multiple-choice quiz is the occasional reference in the answer boxes to environmentally related concerns linked to the element in question, which adds current relevance and meaning to the material. The author’s tone is friendly and encouraging.

Other areas are less advantageous. Site navigation overall is poor. It is unclear to the user how to exit the quiz, nor is it possible to revisit previously answered questions. Correct answers are commented upon, while incorrectly answered questions are bypassed until later in the quiz. A variety of design elements seem pedagogically unsound, such as recording only the number of consecutive questions answered correctly, rather than the total number of correctly answered questions. Blocking the learner from dwelling upon incorrectly answered questions is another drawback as it promotes guessing rather than reflection, especially given the lack of additional guidance or learning resources. The quiz only ends when one answers all 43 questions correctly (incorrectly answered questions are repeated indefinitely).

Imprecisely written formulae (NO3 rather than NO3), the use of non IUPAC units and occasional inaccuracies in the answer boxes (“The most expensive element at the time [?] the program was created”) fail to add educational value.

Activity: Classic, Review, and Brain Boggle Chembalancer

The Chembalancer activities provide the student with the opportunity to test balancing skills for 11, 10 and 5 chemical equations respectively by adding the appropriate coefficients to reactants and products. Navigational issues similar to those encountered during the element quiz limit the resource’s usefulness. The quiz ends only by balancing all equations correctly, yet guidance to refine balancing strategies is not provided. The student who is unable to correctly balance even one of the equations cannot complete the activity. Inconsistencies in molecular structures (e.g. in the structure of Al2O3 ) and formulae (Ag2O) add to the confusion. In Brain Boggle equation 2 is not aligned well to the correct answer (nor the worksheet), which refers to CO rather than CO2. The distinction made on the Web site between beginner and advanced Chembalancer activities is unclear, as meaningful learning support is unavailable and levels of difficulty are comparable for all three.


The site overall shows accessibility problems, such as poor distinction between foreground/background/text color hues, and inconsistent use of font style and size.


Of some benefit on this educational Web site are the accompanying, downloadable worksheets. The online quiz and semi-interactive activities, however, add less than supplementary learning value to conventional classroom based tasks and resources.


(from * poor to **** good)

Ease of navigation: * 

Ease of learning: **

Content: **

Relevance: ***

Accuracy: **

Usefulness to student: **

Usefulness to teacher: **

Christina Mainka

Napier University, Edinburgh,

S1430-4171(06)31045-6, 10.1333/s00897061045a

Modern Biopharmaceuticals: Design, Development and Optimization. Dedicated to Francis Crick (1916-2004). Jörg Knäblein, Editor. Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA: Weinheim, Germany, 2005. 4 volumes, Figures and tables, clxxxvii + 1886 pp. 17.7 x 24.5 cm.; hardcover. $755.00; €629.00; SFR994; ISBN 3-527-31184-X.

Although an exact definition of the term “biopharmaceutical” is still absent from dictionaries, it apparently originated in the 1980s as a class of therapeutic products produced by modern biotechnological techniques. These incorporated protein-based products produced by genetic engineering or, in the case of monoclonal antibodies (mAbs), produced by hybridoma technology. Thus biopharmaceuticals can be described as proteins or nucleic acid-based pharmaceuticals, used for therapeutic or in vivo diagnostic purposes and produced by means other than direct extraction from a non-engineered biological source.

In 1982 the first biopharmaceutical product, “humilin,” recombinant human insulin, produced in Escherichia coli and developed by Genentech in collaboration with Eli Lilly, was approved for use in the United States, marking the beginning of the biopharmaceutical industry. Since then the biopharmaceutical market has burgeoned at an accelerating rate. More than 120 such products are currently being marketed around the world, including nine blockbuster drugs, which represent the mainstay products of the biotechnology industry. Modern Biopharmaceuticals is a four-volume work intended to introduce readers to a comprehensive set of recently developed technologies, which shows the paradigm shifts in the health care system and reflects these changes in industrial research.

Jörg Knäblein, Head of Microbiological Chemistry at Schering AG, Berlin, Germany and Scientific Advisor, Executive Board Member, and President of the European Association of Pharmaceutical Biotechnology, studied biotechnology/chemical engineering at the Gesellschaft für Biotechnologische Forschung (GBF). After acquiring industrial experience as a biotechnologist in research on Alzheimer’s disease at Hoechst UK (London), he decided to study biochemistry and earned his diploma in biochemistry at the Max-Planck-Institut (M-P-I) für Biochemie at Martinsried/Munich. He then worked as a biochemist at Hoechst in Somerville, NJ. Returning to the M-P-I in Munich, he received his PhD degree by working in the group of 1988 Nobel chemistry laureate Robert Huber, who wrote one of the two forewords for Modern Biopharmaceuticals. Together with Huber, he founded his own biotechnology company and worked for a consulting firm focusing on the Life Science business of global players, while also co-founding the PharmaManagement Network.

The recipient of numerous awards and honors, Knäblein has chaired and organized several international pharmaceutical conferences and is a member of the editorial board of the European Journal of Pharmaceutics and Biopharmaceuticals. He advises international clients, institutions, and governments, lectures extensively around the world, and has authored many journal articles, several books, and holds a number of patents. In addition to editing the work under review he coauthored one of the articles (“Production of Recombinant Proteins in Plants,” pp 893-917).

Knäblein describes the genesis of the project that resulted in the book in the Prologue (pp xxv-xxvii):

“I have a dream…”. Once, on an early Sunday morning in 2003, “the 50th anniversary of DNA discovery”, I woke up and had the idea to bring together all the world-renowned leaders from biotech academia and industry, in order to publish a comprehensive book on modern biopharmaceuticals. As learned from nature, some things happen best—if at all—spontaneously. So, I contacted some of my friends, presented the idea and discussed with them the current hot topics in the LifeSciences arena. Very quickly a list with topics and authors emerged, which I presented to Wiley-VCH—and they spontaneously agreed to publish this book (p xxv).

Modern Biopharmaceuticals is a truly international venture. The 186 contributors are scientists and business leaders from academic, industrial, and governmental laboratories working in 17 countries—Germany (61), United States (52), the Netherlands (12), Switzerland and the United Kingdom (11 each), Japan (eight), Austria and Israel (six each), Canada (five), Korea (four), Denmark, Poland, and Spain (two each), and Australia, France, India, and Ireland (one each).

Knäblein’s work may be unprecedented in having such an impressive group of individuals contribute to one biotechnology book. Contributors include leading authorities from internationally prestigious academic institutes such as the California Institute of Technology, Cambridge University, Charité Campus Benjamin Franklin, the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule (ETH), Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology, Harvard University, Imperial College London, Johns Hopkins, Karolinska Institutet, Kyoto University, Max-Planck-Institut für Biochemie, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Moscow and Polish Academies of Science, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Oxford University, Princeton University, Scripps Institute, Seoul National University, Stanford University, the Technion, the Weizmann Institute of Science, and Yale University, as well as biotechnology companies such as Amgen, Astex Technology, Bayer, Baxter, Berlex, Crucell, DSM Biologics, DuPont, Merck, Genentech, Genzyme, Hoffmann-La Roche, Invitrogen, Lonza Biologics, McKinsey, Mologen, Monsanto, MorphoSys, Novartis, Novo Nordisk, Philips, Roche, SmithKline, Schering, and the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Moreover, authors include three Nobel chemistry laureates—Robert Huber (1988) (Foreword, “History of Modern Biopharmaceuticals: Where Did We Come From and Where Will We Go,” pp xxxi-xxxiii), Thomas R. Cech (1989) (“Beginning to Understand the End of the Chromosome,” pp 37-48), and Manfred Eigen (1967) (“Design of Modern Biopharmaceuticals by Ultra-high-throughput Screening,” pp 583-603).

A number of the essays deal with controversial topics on the cutting edge of research, for example, “The First Cloned Human Embryo: An Unlimited Source of Stem Cells for Therapeutic Cloning” by Woo Suk Hwang et al. (pp 269-281. Since the book’s publication the Seoul National University on March 20, 2006 dismissed Hwang for fraudulently fabricating data on embryonic stem cells.) and “Myocardial Regeneration Strategies using Human Embryonic Stem Cells” by Izhak Kehat, Oren Caspi, and Lior Gepstein (pp 283-303).

Knäblein’s book, the volumes of which are cumulatively paginated, is printed on heavy, acid-free paper and includes a host of tables and figures, some in color and some full-page. The meticulously documented essays include references as recent as 2004. Each of the set’s four volumes contains a table of contents for the entire set (16 pp).

Volume 1 (373 pp) contains a Prologue (3 pp) and Dedication (2 pp) to Francis Crick, both by Knäblein; two Forewords (3 pp and 2 pp, by Robert Huber and Günter Stock, respectively); four pages of quotes by Nobelists James D. Watson, Sir Aaron Klug, Stanley Cohen, Kary Mullis, and Paul Lauterbur as well as Ian Wilmut (“clone-father of sheep Dolly”), Chris Walsh, and Detlev Ganten; and a list of contributors and their postal addresses (16 double-column pages). The most unusual and interesting introductory section in this volume is an extremely long (71 pages) “Executive Summary” by Knäblein, which describes in detail each of the 75 signed and cross-referenced essays and thus provides a complete summary of the entire book’s contents.

·   Introduction, “Current Status of Biopharmaceuticals: Approved Products and Trends in Approvals” (34 pp), presents definitions, history, and lists of products, the companies producing them, therapeutic indications, and dates of approval. Extensive cross-references to essays in the book are given.

·  Part I, “Biopharmaceuticals used in Molecular Medicine” (15 essays)

Volume 2 (342 pp, the shortest volume)

·  Part II, “Biopharmaceuticals and their Mode of Action” (8 essays)

·  Part III, “Improving the Development of Biopharmaceuticals” (7 essays)

Volume 3 (635 pp, the longest volume)

·  Part IV, “Production of Biopharmaceuticals” (16 essays)

·  Part V, “Biopharmaceuticals used for Diagnostics and Imaging” (9 essays)

Volume 4 (471 pp)

·  Part VI, “Advanced Application Routes for Biopharmaceuticals” (9 essays)

·  Part VII, “From Transcription to Prescription for Biopharmaceuticals” (5 essays)

·  Part VIII, “From Bench to Bedside—the Aftermaths” (5 essays)

·  “Epilog” (2 pp)

·  “More about the Editor” (2 pp)

·  “Supplement CD-ROM” (4 pp)

This final volume includes a detailed index (46 double-column pages) from “Abacavir” to “Zystic fibrosis” that facilitates location of information. Attached to the inside back cover is a supplementary CD-ROM disk with a PowerPoint presentation that Knäblein assembled over the years and that he has used to share the fascination of biotechnology with students. It includes vivid video animations such as those showing the entire process from DNA unwinding in the nucleus through transcription into mRNA to the expression of a biopharmaceutical. Also, the mechanism of the cancer drug Herceptin in CHO cells is shown in a fascinating and educational manner. By focusing on key aspects the animations help one to understand such complex processes.

In Knäblein’s words,

I hope that the reader will agree that this book is the first of its kind, introducing a comprehensive set of technologies recently developed, showing their impact on drug development, discussing paradigm shifts in the healthcare system and also reflecting these changes in industrial research. Compiling this wealth of information in a sophisticated manner was only possible if all chapters were written by the experts themselves, and most of them are working in academic institutes and (often in their own) biotech companies at the same time…. It is my hope that [the book] will serve as an inspiration for all professionals in the field, since it offers a very good framework for understanding the complex nature of biopharmaceuticals, the mainstay of modern medicine (pp xxvi).

In my opinion, he has eminently succeeded in attaining his goal and has produced an authoritative sourcebook dealing with the entire broad range of biopharmaceuticals now available.

The next edition of Modern Biopharmaceuticals, which is intended to be even more comprehensive, is already in preparation, and Knäblein asks readers to suggest additional topics and content and to visit the biotechnology hub at his website to discuss current trends with a particular Global Pharma Specialist from a world-wide network.

Modern Biopharmaceuticals is an impressive compilation of outstanding results written by brilliant, creative thinkers who are shaping present and future biotechnology. I am pleased to recommend strongly this complete and comprehensive basic reference source for this new, exciting fieldto biotechnologists, clinicians, physicians, pharmacists, pharmaceutical chemists, molecular biologists, medicinal chemists, and anyone working in the biotechnological and pharmaceutical industries or in medicinal institutes. It should also be invaluable to undergraduate and graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and researchers looking for quick, clear, and concise ideas on topics that lie outside their areas of expertise. It also belongs in academic, industrial, and governmental libraries.

George B. Kauffman

California State University, Fresno,

S1430-4171(06)31046-5, 10.1333/s00897061046a

Infrared Spectroscopy: Fundamentals and Applications. By Barbara Stuart. John Wiley and Sons Ltd, Chichester, England, 2004. xv + 224 pp. £34.99. ISBN 0-470-85428-6.

Analytical chemistry is one of the most fundamental areas in science. The work of analytical chemists is of vital importance throughout the manufacturing industry and in the environmental, medical, and biological sciences. Because analytical chemistry appears in the chemistry course at most colleges and universities, many publishers offer texts that address the needs of students taking these courses.

Barbara Stuart, in her preface to Infrared Spectroscopy: Fundamentals and Applications, argues that IR spectroscopy has a central role in this area:

“Infrared spectroscopy is one of the most important and widely used analytical techniques available to scientists working in a whole range of fields. There are a number of texts on the subject available, ranging from instrumentation to specific applications. The present book aims to provide an introduction to those needing to use infrared spectroscopy for the first time, by explaining the fundamental aspects of the technique, how to obtain a spectrum and how to analyze infrared data obtained for a wide number of materials.”

This concisely sums up the author’s aims for the book, but the slightly curious phraseology of the final sentence in the preface hints that all is not quite right with this book, and so it proves.

There is a lucrative market for textbooks in analytical chemistry, and the level and style adopted by Stuart suggest that this book might be a useful addition to the field. The coverage of topics is appropriate, the level at which the book is written, while undemanding, is suitable for students taking a first course in the subject, and a range of examples helps to illustrate the discussion. Unhappily though, the book contains so many errors or misleading explanations that one can only conclude that it was inadequately proofread.

It would take up too much space to list all the errors in the book, but we got no farther than page six when the author introduces a topic in which the emphasis is misplaced and the discussion confused. In a section entitled Infrared Absorption, we learn that line broadening may have three causes: collisional broadening; lifetime broadening, reflecting the operation of the Uncertainty Principle; and Doppler Broadening.

(Doppler broadening occurs) … when the radiation source is moving towards or away from the observer…

The average student will surely find this misleading. In the sort of IR absorption experiment that a student might perform in the undergraduate laboratory, the radiation source is fixed in the spectrometer and therefore not moving at all with respect to the observer (i.e., the detector). The author’s statement thus implies that in a typical experiment, Doppler broadening is nonexistent. Students might reasonably wonder why, if that is the case, it is worth mentioning.

Lifetime broadening, though detectable, and even valuable, in some gas-phase spectra, is a minor effect; in condensed phase IR spectroscopy broadening arising from the Uncertainty Principle is swamped by other factors. However, while eight lines are devoted to an outline of the origin of lifetime broadening, collisional broadening, which is the primary factor responsible for the change in appearance in IR spectra when one moves from the gas phase to the condensed phase, is dismissed with the single line

There is also the broadening of bands due to the collisions between molecules.”

A student new to IR spectroscopy might well conclude that (a) Doppler broadening is irrelevant because the spectrometer is not moving around the laboratory; (b) collisional broadening might be present because the molecules are colliding, but (c) lifetime broadening is the key effect because it is worth eight lines. This impression is unhelpful and the confusion caused unnecessary, because a simple discussion of the relative importance of these different mechanisms (also clarifying the explanation of Doppler effects) would take up little space.

If this discussion is misleading rather than actually incorrect, one does not need to read much further before finding genuine errors. On page eight, the mass of a carbon atom is given incorrectly. A few lines above, on the same page, faulty typesetting has merged an equation number with the equation itself, so that the number appears as thought it might be a multiplicative factor.

A further, more serious, error occurs for the first time on the same page. Figure 1.6 shows a sketch of simple molecular vibrations, but in the water stretch the oxygen atom is shown as being stationary. The figure implies that the center of gravity of the molecule moves during this vibration (which cannot occur, because a movement of the center of gravity is a translation, not a vibration). The error is repeated in Figures 1.7 (the water stretch again) and 1.11 (the asymmetric stretch in carbon dioxide).

Figures 1.8 and 1.9 depict molecular bends, and in these the failure to show movement of all the relevant atoms implies that the molecule may gain angular momentum as a result of the vibration. Each of these figures is incorrect; the author should have explained clearly, and demonstrated in the figures, that in any normal mode of vibration the center of gravity must remain unmoved and that there can be no net angular momentum associated with the vibration. This is not an obscure academic point, but a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of a molecular vibration.

On page 11 the author introduces combination bands, but makes no comment on their number, importance, or intensity in the spectrum. In even a small molecule, the number of possible combination bands is significant, and students might conclude that the spectrum must be full of such features. A brief comment would have been helpful at this stage to cover how frequently combination bands appear and what their intensity typically is.

Proof-reading of the text is not up to the standard one would expect: as well as the faulty position of an equation number noted before, on page 12 there is reference to “an” vibration-rotation spectrum and on page 16, we learn that the information from two beams is “rationed” to obtain the required sample spectrum, when what is meant that a ratio is calculated. Can one, in any case, ratio “information”? What is actually compared is the intensity of the two beams.

On page 24, the author explains that the IR spectrum to the low-energy side of 1800 cm–1 may be shown using a different scale to that on the high-energy side, so as to emphasize areas of interest. In reality, this change of scale, if it appears on the spectrum, occurs at 2000 cm–1. Figure 2.10 illustrates this point, contradicting the author’s assertion. The change of scale at 2000 cm–1, not 1800 cm–1, appears again in Figures 2.11 and 2.13, and in further figures throughout the text.

Figure 2.14 is intended to show a beam being reflected twice when passing through an IR cell, but the beam suffering the second reflection does not even come close to the surface from which it is supposed to be reflected for the second time.

Fig 2.15, which shows a schematic of an attenuated total reflectance cell, is highly misleading, implying that the angle of reflection for a light beam in such a cell may be identical for two quite different angles of incidence. This betrays either a serious lack of attention to detail in the preparation of the figure or—worse—a lack of understanding of some very basic physics.

These errors occur before one reaches page forty in a book of well over two hundred pages.

Any book can contain errors or misprints. What strikes one about this book, however, is the serious nature of the problems. The failure to draw molecular vibrations properly (in a book devoted to the study of molecular vibrations!), the statement that a scale change occurs in the spectrum at 1800 cm–1 when numerous figures in the book indicate that this is not the case, and the implication that the laws of reflection do not apply in IR spectroscopy, are all fundamental errors.

There is no doubt that a market exists for a gentle introduction to IR spectroscopy, though the price of £34.99 for this modest paperback is fairly steep. John Wiley is an outstanding scientific publisher and I would usually be happy to buy from them sight-unseen. However, the publishers have done themselves no favors with the publication of this book. A revised edition may appear in due course—there is the germ of a useful text here—but I cannot recommend the present edition to either students or instructors.

Hugh Cartwright

Oxford University, UK, VA 24401,

S1430-4171(06)31047-4, 10.1333/s00897061047a

CRC Handbook on CD-ROM. Version 2006. David R. Lide, Editor-in-Chief. Information Copyright Taylor and Francis, 2006 HDS Search Software Copyright Hampden Data Services Ltd., 2006. £92.00 (2005 version). ISSN 1098-4178, ISBN 0-8493-9133-4.

The CRC handbook is a resource well known to physicists and chemists alike, containing the entire physical constant and behavior information for a multitude of gases, liquids and solids. If one criticism could be leveled at this august tome (now in its 86th edition), it is that it contains so much data that the one piece of information you are looking for can sometimes be hidden by the rest of the information haystack!

This CD-ROM transfers the handbook to the realm of the electronic with all the various pages of the handbook represented in portable data format (PDF). The CD loads and installs very quickly (a few minutes on my system), with the useful option of allowing a complete install so the CD is not necessary to run the program.

The program offers a basic, but generally intuitive GUI, although a degree of Adobe slickness, with docking windows and the like would have been preferred. The interface, though, is not for the novice and those without experience of Boolean search engines may initially struggle. To overcome this, the publishers have provided a full help section, although some additional options for tutorials would have been useful as well.

More importantly though, the program offers a basic Boolean search engine that allows one to search by formula, thermodynamic, or physical property and then combine individual searches for comparison. This is a true boon and it allows one to easily find and then directly compare the physical data. This data can then be handily can be saved (as a ‘strategy’) sorted, printed and exported.

Whilst the CD-ROM does not give the tactile pleasure of the CRC handbook itself, it does contain greatly enhanced functionality, and while the GUI could stand with improvement, the rapid and general user-friendliness of the interface does allow information to be easily found and then used. As such, small niggles concerning tutorials and GUIs aside, it can be considered a fantastic and inordinately useful product.

Martin Owen Jones

Oxford University, UK,

S1430-4171(06)31048-3, 10.1333/s00897061048a

Practical Organic Synthesis—A Student’s Guide. By R. Keese, M. P. Brändle and T. P. Toube. Published by Wiley: Chichester, 2006. softcover, £24.95. ISBN 0-470-02965-X.

According to the information on the back of the book, “this is an essential guide for those new to the organic chemistry laboratory and a handy bench top guide for practicing organic chemists.” This is a very bold statement to make and an extremely difficult promise to live up to and yet this text does almost meet the claims it makes. The style of writing is definitely aimed at the more novice chemist and it is an easy book to read; however, there is a lot of information that is extremely useful to the more experience researcher.

The format of the book seems to be running through how a researcher should go about designing an experiment; what safety considerations have to be taken in account; how one would prove what one had made, once purified; and finally how to dispose of the waste produced as a result of the reaction being carried out. Unfortunately though, the order is not as listed above. The book starts with some information on safety in a laboratory and first aid, then moves on to purification techniques and spectroscopy before discussing how to search the chemical literature and finally getting around to discussing how to prepare a write-up in a laboratory notebook. This gives a sense that the material covered is all over the place. If the information were presented in a more logical order, this book would be of a greater benefit to new researchers. Having provided a brief overall feel to the book, it is now worth going into some detail about what information is actually contained within it.

One of the problems of writing an international book is that the laws and health information given is variable from country to country. This is definitely a problem with the safety advice presented in this book. The recommendation for gloves states that rubber or latex gloves are the materials of choice, yet this would not be the norm in the UK. With the increase of latex allergies, latex is not the type of glove that is recommended at all. The first-aid information is also not up to date. Apart from the fact that only trained first aiders are allowed to administer first aid (at no point in the section is it stated that place of work insurance normally only covers trained workers), the idea that a first aider would actually give a patient 200 mL of liquid paraffin to drink if they had swallowed something noxious is so outdated that it is ludicrous. The role of first aiders in the UK is to make sure that the patient gets to hospital as quickly as possible (if required) or to deal with any cuts that require minimal attention. All UK first-aid courses say that the patient is not to be given any medication until they are seen by a professional. The advice given in this book could lead to an untrained person feeling that, because they have read some safety information, they now know what they are doing, which could result in more damage than good being done.

The sections in the book about purification are written in a logical manner, with some useful data that would be beneficial to both the novice and the experienced chemist, for example, the list of common azeotropic mixtures, the diagrams that can be used to estimate the quantity of silica or alumina required, and common TLC stains. The only issues that need to be raised are that it is implied that ether is the only solvent used when carrying out an extraction and the instructions on how to carry out a recrystallization could be clearer. At no point is there any information on what volume of solvent to use or any comment on the use of hot filtrations.

All of the information already discussed would be of most benefit to the novice; however, the sections in this book that deal with purification and drying of common solvents, disposal of classes of waste materials, handy hints on the synthesis of organic compounds (e.g. how to prepare isotopically labelled compounds), and how to search the chemical literature (especially the common Web-based databases) make this book worth having around any laboratory.

In conclusion there are a lot of good points to this book. It is well written, apart from the odd place where bits of text have not been translated correctly into English, and easy to read; however, the safety information has to be relevant to this country. Overall this is a good reference book to purchase for an undergraduate teaching laboratory or a research laboratory, but, at around £50 per hardback copy, it is too expensive to recommend as an undergraduate course book, though the softcover version, at half the price, offers better value.


Malcolm Stewart

Oxford University, UK,

S1430-4171(06)31049-2, 10.1333/s00897061049a