The Chemical Educator, Vol. 11, No.5, Media Reviews, © 2006 The Chemical Educator

Media Reviews

Grenzgänge—Albert Hofmann zum 100. Geburtstag; Exploring the Frontiers—In Celebration of Albert Hofmann’s 100th Birthday. Günter Engel and Paul Herrling, Editors. Schwabe Verlag: Steinentorstrasse 13, CH-4010 Basel, Switzerland, 2006. Telephone: +41 61 278 95 65; FAX: +41 61 278 95 66; 225 pp; 13.2 ´ 24.5 cm.; hardbound, ISBN 3-7965-2210-6, SFR48; 33.50.

A Festschrift is defined as “a volume of articles, essays, etc., contributed by many authors in honor of a colleague, usually published on the occasion of retirement, an important anniversary, or the like.” Festschriften are often written to commemorate a subject’s 60th, 70th, 80th, or even 90th birthdays, but those written to celebrate someone’s 100th birthday must be extremely rare. Centenarians are becoming more common, but prominent chemists who have exceeded the biblical span by three decades are still sparse. The Frenchman Michel Eugène Chevreul (1786–1889) and Americans Joel Henry Hildebrand (1881–1983) and E(benezer) Emmet Reid (1872–1973) are among the few that come readily to mind. Thus, although the Festschrift in honor of Albert Hofmann (b. January 11, 1906) may not be unique, it is certainly uncommon and worthy of careful examination.

This gorgeous bilingual volume (in German on the left hand pages and English on the right hand pages so the actual number of pages is one-half of the cited number), published with the support of Novartis Pharma AG, Basel, is a balanced blend of science and art in keeping with the multifaceted personality of the scientist to whom it pays tribute. Consisting of six essays, all meticulously referenced, written by Hofmann’s friends and former colleagues, both scientists and nonscientists, and beautifully illustrated with 118 numbered figures consisting of some black-and-white and many more full-color pictures (some full-page and two as 2-page pullouts), formal and informal portraits, laboratory notebooks, structural formulas, and reaction schemes, the volume draws on published studies, monographs, interviews, and personal recollections and records and is designed to be “a fully rounded portrait, but not one that is intended to serve as a formal biography” (p 7).

Dr. Albert Hofmann’s work on ergot alkaloids and its influence on the development of pharmaceuticals at Sandoz—a predecessor company of Novartis (20 pp, the shortest essay, 14 figures). Pharmaceutical chemists Günter Engel and Rudolf Giger trace the complex history of ergot and the tortuous course of Hofmann’s research, the pharmaceuticals that he produced by modifying natural products, and the background leading up to his major discovery, that of LSD, which almost instantly transformed him into a world-renowned figure. They highlight the significant chemical breakthroughs in ergot research at Sandoz and how evolution of structure and activity resulted in two major pharmaceutical products. The Festschrift also blends well the parallel development of the science of ergot chemistry and its undeniable influence on society. For example, Hofmann’s insight about Methergine (lysergic acid butanolamide), which found use in obstetrics, and LSD brings this into perspective: “One helps with physical birth, the other with spiritual rebirth” (p 103).

Natural Products Research at Novartis Pharmaceuticals—A historical overview (46 pp, 37 figures). Microbiologist Frank Petersen surveys the role of natural products in the pharmaceuticals industry at Sandoz, Ciba, and Novartis and places Hofmann’s research in this area in a broad context. He describes how Sandoz, a small dyestuff factory, slowly blossomed and transformed itself into a pharmaceutical giant. In 1917 Sandoz Director, Melchior Böniger (1866–1929), boldly decided to hire an academic, Professor Arthur Stoll (1887–1971), a Swiss natural products chemist who was then the assistant of 1915 Nobel chemistry laureate Richard Martin Willstätter (1872–1942) at the Universität München. Stoll took only three years to isolate pure ergotamine and introduce it as Gynergen onto the market.  This Sandoz success continued with the introduction of the breakthrough transplantation medicine Sandimmune in 1982.

Across the Rhine, Ciba-Geigy had similar origins to Sandoz, and in 1900 it entered the pharmaceutical business with the antiseptic Vioform and the antirheumatic Salen. In 1924 the analeptic and circulatory stimulant Coramine was introduced onto the market. This product played an indirect role in the fateful Hofmann synthesis of the ergotamine alkaloid analogue, LSD. Today, the joint merger of the two companies to form Novartis continues to enjoy similar successes and looks forward to the development of the anti-cancer agent, patupilone or epothilone B currently in Phase III clinical trials.

Albert Hofmann at home in Rittimatte (20 pp, 44 figures). Werner Huber, who joined Hofmann’s Natural Products Division at Sandoz as a laboratory technician about four decades ago, provides an account of their first meeting and, from the more recent past, their butterfly-watching expeditions. Full-color pictures of the two friends, scenery, plants, and butterflies in various stages of their development are featured.  Rittimatte is quietly nestled in a hidden corner of Switzerland along the border with France (Although it is only 20 kilometers from my home I have found myself here only twice, both by accident and by bicycle. It is no wonder that this place is so untouched and out-of-the-way of daily technological reminders.—GWC).

From natural science to philosophy. A man with the capacity for insight and wonder (28 pp, 5 figures). Rolf Verres, an authority in psychotherapeutic medicine and one of Hofmann’s closest friends, discusses how Hofmann’s philosophical reflections and worldview were shaped by his experiences.  Verres also presents the most informative section about Albert Hofmann’s early childhood and recollections during a time when his full responsibility was focused on family needs. “...happiness was to be found across the road—on a farm, where he spent most of his childhood, at the smithy and the cartwright’s shop” (p 99). Verres points out that Hofmann “describes his ties with the trees, meadows, butterflies and landscapes as having been just as close as his human relationships” (p 99).

Possibly young Hofmann’s fate was predetermined. “For Albert’s father, who suffered from consumption (i.e., pulmonary tuberculosis, which was not recognized as a disease at that time), the 15 minute walk to the factory had become too difficult” (p 99).  This forced upon Hofmann the burden of taking charge of family matters and took him awayfrom enjoying the paradise that he was so used to.  He learned Latin and botany with the assistance of his teachers and finished as second best in his class despite his father’s severe illness. With his teachers’ support, he was able to complete the Matura examination in Latin at the age of 19, but rather than pursuing the study of humanities he shocked many of his teachers and colleagues by his decision to study chemistry.

Moreover, Hofmann recounts his preoccupation with chemistry and how it specifically influenced his philosophical ideas.  Verres notes about Hofmann, “The unpredictability inherent in ‘rational’ efforts to design chemical structures with specific pharmacological—let alone therapeutic—effects represented a constant challenge for Albert Hofmann during his scientific career” (p 105). As Hofmann expressed it, “To the extent that the scope for planning is limited, the gates are open to chance” (p 105). According to Verres, “But, not infrequently, what we call ‘chance’ turns out to be the result of careful observation” (p 105).

Solidarity with the universe. Reflections of a layman inspired by a centenarian (46 pp, 1 figure). Violinist Volker Biesenbender, a former student of the late Sir Yehudi Menuhin who teaches musical improvisation at the Zürich School of Music, Drama, and Dance and a quarter-century friend of Hofmann and his wife Anita, presents a similar examination of the development of Hofmann’s Weltanschaung.  One must not forget that compared to Hofmann the centenarian, his wife is still a young woman of 95 years of age and experience.

St. Anthony’s fire in medieval art: the Antonite Order’s holistic approach to treatment (48 pp, the longest essay, 17 figures). Editor Günter Engel, who has a keen interest in medieval art, investigates the significance of ergot, the causative agent of ergotism (“St. Anthony’s Fire”) and the substance that Hofmann transformed from a toxin to a therapeutic agent, in the history of medicine. Hofmann, a member of the Antoniter-Forum, which is dedicated to the preservation of the Antonite heritage, considered St. Anthony to be the patron saint who accompanied him throughout his life. Many reproductions of St. Anthony and his temptations by Matthias Grünewald, Hieronymus Bosch, and other artists vividly illustrate the points made in the text. Ironically, the convulsive symptomatology was caused by the natural ergot substance and not associated with the hallucinogenic analogue LSD, which Hofmann first prepared in 1938. 

A one-page “Albert Hofmann—a biographical sketch” and thumbnail sketches of the authors and editors conclude the volume. No index is provided, but this is not a serious lack in such a short book. 

In addition to the standard edition of 1300 copies, limited editions of this Festschrift in a leather-bound deluxe edition (numbered from 1 to 20) and a linen-bound special edition (numbered from 21 to 200), which are not commercially available, have been published.

The editors hope that their book, a true labor of love, “will encourage interested readers to take a closer look at the individual stages of Hofmann’s scientific career and personal development” (p 7). As aficionados of Hofmann and his accomplishments, we second their hope, and we heartily recommend it to everyone interested in the history of recent pharmaceutical chemistry, development of natural products, and the life and career of one of the most talented chemists of our time.

George B. Kauffman

California State University, Fresno,

G. Wayne Craig

Syngenta AG, Lead Finding, WRO.1060.1.36, Rosental CH-4002, Basel, Switzerland,

S1430-4171(06)61092-8, 10.1333/s00897061092a

Encyclopedia of Genetics, Genomics, Proteomics and Bioinformatics. Lynn B. Jorde, Peter F. R. Little, Michael J. Dunn, and Shankar Subramaniam, Editors. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.: The Atrium, Southern Gate, Chichester, West Sussex, PO19 8SQ, England, 2005. Telephone: 1(866) 465-3817; Outside of the U.S.A. 1(201) 748-6645; FAX: 1(201)748-5715; email:; web sites:; 8 volumes, Figures, tables, and index, clxvii + 3891 pp; 19.5 ´ 25.0 cm.; hardcover. $1,890.00; 1649; SFR2605; ISBN 0-470-84974-6.

Encyclopedia of Genetics, Genomics, Proteomics and Bioinformatics

Genetics (from the Greek gennw, give birth) is the science of genes, heredity, and the variation of organisms. The past five decades have witnessed a series of exciting advances in genetics research that began in 1953 with James D. Watson and Francis H. C. Crick’s discovery of the structure of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and culminating in the sequencing of human DNA by J. Craig Venter of Celera Genomics (2001) and Francis S. Collins of the Human Genome Project (2002). During this time a number of related fields have emerged, developed, and matured, including cytogenetics, genetic epidemiology, epigenetics, and molecular population genetics. At the same time the fields of genomics [1], proteomics [2], and bioinformatics [3] have evolved.

As increasing whole genome sequences and large-scale data sets have become available, the task of analyzing this information and using it to deliver a deeper understanding of how organisms function has become more urgent. This “genetic revolution,” comprising genetics, genomics, proteomics, and bioinformatics, has led and will continue to lead to significant improvements in medicine, public health, forensics, biology, pharmacogenomics, agriculture, and other vital areas.

Although a 1379-page, one-volume Encyclopedic Dictionary of Genetics, Genomics, and Proteomics [4] by a single author appeared in 2003, and other related monographs have been published [5–8], the encyclopedia under review here is the first comprehensive, multivolume, multiauthor major reference work to be devoted to these fields plus bioinformatics.

This eight-volume set is actually a combination of four separate encyclopedias, each consisting of two volumes, each with a separate Editor, and each with separate Section Editors from eight countries (seven, eight, eight, and eight editors, respectively for each of the encyclopedias).

Lynn B. Jorde, Editor of the Genetics Encyclopedia (Volumes 1 and 2), is Professor of Human Genetics at the University of Utah School of Medicine, the author of more than 150 articles, and the lead author of the widely used textbook Medical Genetics [9]. He is actively involved in the study of human genetic variation and the genetic basis of human limb malformations. Peter F. R. Little, Editor of the Genomics Encyclopedia (Volumes 3 and 4), is Professor of Medical Biochemistry and Head of the School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia and the author of more than 100 articles on the interface of molecular genetics, genetics, and computational biology. He was previously a Staff Scientist at the Institute of Cancer Research (1982–1987) and Lecturer and Reader at the Imperial College of Science, Technology, and Medicine (1987–2000), both in London, England.

Michael J. Dunn, Editor of the Proteomics Encyclopedia (Volumes 5 and 6), is Professor of Proteomics at the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College, London, President of the British Electrophoresis Society, and a Senior Staff Member in the National Heart and Lung Institute Division of the Imperial College of Science, Technology, and Medicine, London for 13 years. He has contributed to numerous texts on gel electrophoretic and proteomic technologies and applications. He also contributed four articles to Volume 5 (Section 2—Expression Proteomics, Articles 20, 22, 26, and 29). Shankar Subramaniam, Editor of the Bioinformatics Encyclopedia (Volumes 7 and 8), is Professor of Bioengineering, Chemistry, Biochemistry, and Biology and Director of the Bioinformatics Graduate Program at the University of California, San Diego and holds adjunct positions at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies and the San Diego Supercomputer Center. He has been Director of the Bioinformatics and Computational Biology Program at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications and Co-Director of the W. M. Keck Center for Comparative and Functional Genomics at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.   

These four scientists’ encyclopedias analyze the genome sequences of humans and other model organisms that should improve our understanding of gene organization and function in these organisms. Although the focus is on the human and mouse genomes, other important model eukaryotes and pathogenic bacteria are given in-depth coverage. The work describes studies of the protein complements of cells in different organisms under different conditions, protein-protein interactions and their assembly into pathways, utilizing both theoretical and experimental approaches. The set explains computational methods and resources for studying both the genomic and protein make-up of organisms by novel experimental techniques or by analysis of preexisting data. 

In addition to browsing by using the full table of contents, users can browse by subjects, where the 437 articles are classified according to four types—(1) “Introductory Reviews” for persons new to the subject; (2) “Specialist Reviews”, which provide in-depth coverage for persons with more experience in the subject; (3) “Short Specialist Reviews,” which deal with cutting-edge topics in current research; and (4) “Basic Techniques and Approaches.” The fourth type of article is provided for all but the following nine Sections: Volume 2, Section 5; Volume 3, Sections 1, 2, 3, and 4; Volume 4, Sections 5 and 6; and Volume 7, Sections 4 and 6.   

The Encyclopedia of Genetics, Genomics, Proteomics and Bioinformatics is an international venture. The 744 contributors (168 for Genetics, 172 for Genomics, 216 for Proteomics, and 188 for Bioinformatics) are all eminent authorities from academic, industrial, and governmental laboratories in 27 countries—Australia, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, Iceland, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Malaysia, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Russia, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United States, and the United Kingdom.

The meticulously documented volumes, which are cumulatively paginated, are printed on heavy, glossy, acid-free paper and include hundreds of figures (diagrams and photographs), and tables (some several pages long), numerous equations, and tens of thousands of references, some as recent as 2004. The extensive cross-references in the articles permit the user to move rapidly between related topics.

All of the chapters contain numbered sections and subsections. Volume 1 contains a table of contents for the entire eight-volume set, a list of contributors and their affiliations for Genetics, and a preface for Genetics. Volumes 3, 5, and 7 contain a table of contents and a preface for Genomics, Proteomics, and Bioinformatics, respectively. The final volume also includes an 86-page alphabetical glossary of technical terms containing more than 550 concise but clear definitions from “accessibility” to “z-score” as well as a 157-double-column-page index for the entire set.

The contents of the work give some idea of its breadth and depth:


Genetics (104 articles; 907 pp, the shortest encyclopedia)

    Volume 1 (pp i–xlvii, 1–431; 478 pp)

Section 1. Genetic Variation and Evolution (Articles 1–10)

Section 2. Cytogenics (Articles 1125)

Section 3. Epigenetics (Articles 26–46)

Section 4. Gene Mapping (Articles 47–56)

    Volume 2 (ppii–xiii, 433–848; 429 pp)

Section 5. Complex Trials and Diseases (Articles 57–66)

Section 6. Genetic Medicine and Clinical Genetics (Articles 67–89)

Section 7. Gene Therapy (Articles 90–104)

Genomics (103 articles; 928 pp)

    Volume 3 (pp i-xxii, 849–1248; 422 pp; the shortest volume)

Section 1. Genome Sequencing (Articles 1–8)

Section 2. Mapping (Articles 9–22)

Section 3. The Human Genome (Articles 23–35)

Section 4. Model Organisms: Functional and Comparative Genomics (Articles 36–48)

    Volume 4 (pp i–xiii, 1249–1741; 506 pp)

Section 5. Bacteria and Other Pathogens (Articles 49–66)

Section 6. SNPs/Haplotypes (Articles 67–77)

Section 7. ESTs: Cancer Genes and the Anatomy Project (Articles 78–89)

Section 8. Expression Profiling (Articles 90–103)

Proteomics (118 articles; 1033 pp; the longest encyclopedia)

    Volume 5 (pp i–xxi, 1743–2199; 478 pp)

Section 1. Core Methodologies (Articles 1–19)

Section 2. Expression Proteomics (Articles 20–33)

Section 3. Mapping of Biochemical Networks (Articles 34–47)

Section 4. Functional Proteomics  (Articles 48–60)

    Volume 6 (pp i–xiv, 2201–2741; 555 pp)

Section 5. Proteome Diversity (Articles 61–77)

Section 6. Proteome Families (Articles 78–93)

Section 7. Structural Proteomics (Articles 94–106)

Section 8. Systems Biology (Articles 107–118)


Bioinformatics (112 articles; 1190 pp; the longest encyclopedia if glossary and index are included)

    Volume 7 (pp i–xxiii, 2745–3372; 651 pp; the longest volume)

Section 1. Genome Assembly and Sequencing (Articles 1–12)

Section 2. Gene Finding and Gene Structure (Articles 13–28)

Section 3. Protein Function and Annotation (Articles 29–39)

Section 4. Comparative Analysis and Phylogeny (Articles 40–49)

Section 5. Computational Methods for High-throughput Genetic Analysis: Expression Profiling (Articles 50–63)

Section 6. Methods for Structure and Prediction (Articles 64–78)

    Volume 8 (pp xiv, 3373–3897; 539 pp)

Section 7. Structuring and Integrating Data (Articles 79–92)

Section 8. Modern Programming Paradigms in Biology (Articles 93–112)

Glossary of Terms (pp 3655–3740)

Index (pp 3741–3897)


The Encyclopedia of Genetics, Genomics, Proteomics and Bioinformatics is also available on Wiley InterScience at 109716564/HOME The online version permits convenient multiple user access to the full text of the encyclopedia that is always available as needed. Its powerful search options allow one to search within each title (across full text, tables, and figures), across multiple titles, or across all content on Wiley InterScience. Internal and external links to related articles, primary research, and the world wide web ensure a seamless, efficient research pathway. Flexible pricing models include one-time purchase, subscription, and pay-per-view options. As of July, 2006, 18 new articles had been added to Volumes 1, 2, 3, and 4 of the online version.  

This encyclopedia set is a timely multidisciplinary work that provides balanced and insightful treatments of the current, cutting-edge research in the vibrant and rapidly growing fields of genetics, genomics, proteomics, bioinformatics, and related techniques. I am pleased to recommend it heartily as a essential reference tool to everyone in the genetics, genomics, proteomics, and bioinformatics fields, from students to postdoctoral fellows, to senior scientists. It is also a valuable resource for pharmaceutical and biotechnology firms with an interest in these important and rapidly developing fields. It should also serve as a key reference for university, government, and industrial libraries. In both its print and continuously updated online version this authoritative, comprehensive, and insightful compilation should remain the definitive work on some of the most challenging scientific subjects for many years to come.

References and Notes

1.        Genomics, a relatively new field, can be defined as the identification and interpretation of the complete DNA sequence of an organism. It can yield the raw information on how an organism is created from the controlled expression of its genes. The first whole genome, that of RNA virus fX174 was established only in 1977, that of the first unicellular organism, Hæmophilus influenzæ, in 1995, and the first multicellular organism, Cænorhabditis elegans, in 1998. As of February, 2005, the time of the completion of the encyclopedia, the complete genome sequences for 258 organisms were known.

2.        The term “proteome” was not coined until the mid-1990s by Marc Wilkins of the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Ausralia to designate the protein complement of a genome. Proteomics is the large-scale study of proteins, especially their structures and function. The term was proposed in analogy to genomics, and while often viewed as the “next step”, it is much more complicated than genomics. Furthermore, while the genome is a constant entity, the proteome differs from cell to cell and is constantly changing through its biochemical interaction with the genome and the environment. While the aim of proteomics was initially to characterize the complete proteome of a given organism, the enormity and complexity of this task have resulted in the term’s being used in a much narrower range of contexts.

3.        The terms “bioinformatics” and “computational biology”, at the interface of traditional biology and the quantitative sciences, are used interchangeably to refer to the use of techniques, including applied mathematics, informatics, statistics, computer science, engineering, chemistry, biochemistry, and other aspects of the natural sciences to solve biological problems, usually on the molecular level. 

4.        Redei, G. P. Encyclopedic Dictionary of Genetics, Genomics, and Proteomics, 2nd edition; Wiley-Liss: Hoboken, NJ, 2003. For a review see Kauffman, G. B. Chem.  Educator 2005, 10, 53–54; DOI 10.1333/s00897050871a.

5.        Kahl, G. The Dictionary of Gene Technology: Genomics, Transcriptomics, Proteomics; 3rd rev. and enlarged ed.; Wiley-VCH: Weinheim, Germany, 2004.

6.        Liebler, D. C.; Petricoine, E. F.; Liotta, L. A. Proteomics in Cancer Research; Wiley-Liss: Hoboken, NJ, 2005. Petricoine and Liotta contributed an article to the Proteomics Encyclopedia of the set under review (Volume 5, Section 2—Expression Proteomics, Article 33).

7.        Pasternak, J. K. An Introduction to Human Molecular Genetics: Mechanisms of Inherited Diseases; 2nd ed.; Wiley-Liss: Hoboken, NJ, 2005. 

8.        Keedwell, E.; Narayanan, A. Intelligent Bioinformatics: The Application of Artificial Intelligence Techniques to Bioinformatics Problems; Wiley: Hoboken, NJ, 2005.

9.        Jorde, L. B.; Carey, J. C.; White, R. L. Medical Genetics; Mosby: St. Louis, MO, 1995; rev. ed., 1996; 3rd ed., 2003.

George B. Kauffman

California State University, Fresno,

S1430-4171(06)61093-7, 10.1333/s00897061093a

Chemical Sciences in the 20th Century: Bridging Boundaries. Carsten Reinhardt, Editor. Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH: Weinheim/New York/Chichester/Brisbane/Singapore/ Toronto, 2001. Figures, xviii + 281 pp; 17.8 ´ 24.4 cm.; hardcover. $125; €97.90; SFR157; ISBN 3-527-30271-9.

Although the history of chemistry has emerged as a professional discipline, the major attention has been given to 18th- and 19th-century contributions. However, during the last decade or so, historians of chemistry, particularly in Europe, have organized conferences devoted to more recent chemistry, which has been characterized by spectacular growth in revolutionary theories and experimental breakthroughs. These conferences have resulted in the publication of monographs based on these conferences [1–3]. For example, in 1993 the European Science Foundation sponsored “The Evolution of Chemistry, 1789–1939,” a five-year research program that produced a number of symposia, the presentations of which have been published [1, 2].

Because the program concluded in 1997, prominent historians of chemistry, at the XX. International Congress of the History of Science held on July 20–26, 1997 in Liège, Belgium, decided to continue the program with one on 20th-century chemistry. The Division of History of Science of the International Union of the History and Philosophy of Science founded a Commission on the History of Modern Chemistry (CHMC) “to focus on, and to create a framework for, research on the history of modern chemistry with particular emphasis on twentieth-century chemistry in its relationship to the biomedical sciences, physics, instrumentation, and technology” [4]. Nobel chemistry laureates Manfred Eigen (1967) and Roald Hoffmann (1981) were named Honorary Patrons, and Christoph Meinel [5], Universität Regensburg Lehrstuhl für Wissenschaftsgeschichte, was named President. The CHMC Executive Council consists of Bernadette Bensaude-Vincent and Mary Jo Nye (Vice-Presidents), Peter J. T. Morris and Anthony Travis (Executive Secretaries), and Carsten Reinhardt, also of Universität Regensburg (Treasurer). All these persons, with the exception of Eigen, contributed to the volume under review here.

“Between Physics and Biology: Chemical Sciences in the Twentieth Century,” the first major conference organized by the CHMC, with assistance from its sister Commission on the History of Modern Physics (CHMP), was held at the Deutsches Museum in Munich, Germany on May 28-30, 1999. Sixteen of the conference’s 79 participants from 15 different countries have contributed their papers to the 14 essays in this volume. These leading authorities on the history of chemistry or of science hail from 12 countries—Germany (three), France and the United States (two each), and Australia, Belgium, Denmark, Greece, Israel, Japan, Portugal, Spain, and the United Kingdom (one each).

The collection explores the bridging of boundaries (hence the subtitle) between chemistry and the other “classical” disciplines of science—physics and biology as well as mathematics and technology. The essays present chemistry as an interconnected patchwork of scientific specialties. They consist of case studies, broader overviews on the history of organic chemistry, theoretical chemistry, nuclear chemistry, cosmochemistry, solid-state chemistry, and biotechnology. These fields were all at the center of the development of 20th-century chemistry. Crucial topics such as the emergence of new subdisciplines and research fields, the science-technology relationship, and national styles of scientific work are surveyed.

Like Cæsar’s Gaul, the book is divided into three parts, each of which is approximately equal in length. Each part consists of several essays, presented at the Munich conference. All include abundant references (as late as 2000) and notes. Roald Hoffmann’s foreword (pp v-vii), which has been reprinted separately [6], asks and answers the question of why chemists need the history of chemistry—(1) Every field of human endeavor has a history; (2) It is interesting to see how ideas evolved; (3) Our humanity renders us insatiable in our interest in the personal; and (4) “History humanizes us.” Christoph Meinel’s preface (pp ix-xi) discusses the advent of the history of 20th-century chemistry as an evolving discipline, and Carsten Reinhardt’s essay, “Disciplines, Research Fields, and their Boundaries” (pp 1-13), explores the themes of the book and summarizes the following essays contained in it:


• 1. “Research Fields and Boundaries in Twentieth-Century Organic Chemistry,” Peter J. T. Morris, Anthony S. Travis, and Carsten Reinhardt (29 pp)

        Part I. Theoretical Chemistry and Quantum Chemistry (74 pp, the longest part)

• 2. “Theoretical Quantum Chemistry as Science and Discipline: Some Remarks on a Historical Issue,” Nikos Psarros (6 pp, the shortest essay)

• 3. “Issues in the History of Theoretical and Quantum Chemistry, 1927-1960,” Ana Simões and Kostas Gavroglu (24 pp)

• 4. “Giovanni Battista Bonino and the Making of Quantum Chemistry in Italy in the 1930s,” Andreas Karachalios (30 pp)

• 5. “Between Disciplines: Jean Barriol and the Theoretical Chemistry Laboratory in Nancy,” Marika Blondel-Mégrelis (14 pp)

        Part II. From Radiochemistry to Nuclear Chemistry and Cosmochemistry (70 pp)

• 6. “From Radiochemistry to Nuclear Chemistry and Cosmochemistry,” Xavier Roqué (25 pp)

• 7. “The Discovery of New Elements and the Boundary Between Physics and Chemistry in the 1920s and 1930s. The Case of Elements 43 and 75,” Brigitte Van Tiggelen (15)

• 8. “The Search for Artificial Elements and the Discovery of Nuclear Fission,” Ruth Lewin Sime (14 pp)

9. “From Geochemistry to Cosmochemistry: The Origin of a Scientific Discipline, 1915-1955,” Helge Kragh (31 pp, the longest essay)

        Part III. Solid State Chemistry and Biotechnology (68 pp, the shortest part)

• 10. “Between the Living State and the Solid State: Chemistry in a Changing World,” Peter J. T. Morris (8 pp)

• 11. “Biotechnology Before the “Biotech Revolution”: Life Scientists, Chemists and Product Development in 1930s—1940s America,” Nicolas Rasmussen (27 pp)

• 12. “Polymer Science: From Organic Chemistry to an Interdisciplinary Science,” Yasu Furukawa (18 pp)

• 13. “At the Boundaries: Michael Polanyi’s Work on Surfaces and the Solid State,” Mary Jo Nye (12 pp)

• 14. “The New Science of Materials: A Composite Field of Research,” Bernadette Bensaude-Vincent (13 pp)

I am pleased to recommend this significant monograph on the history of 20th-century chemistry to historians in general and to historians of chemistry and of science as well as to anyone concerned with the background and development of modern chemistry. It should, of course, find a place on the shelves of every library with a history of science collection.

References and Notes

1.        The Chemical Industry in Europe, 18501914: Industrial Growth, Pollution, and Professionalization; Homburg, E.; Travis, A. S.; Schröter, H. G., Eds; Kluwer Academic Publishers: Dordrecht, The Netherlands; Boston, MA; London, England, 1998. For a review see Kauffman, G. B. Endeavour 1999, 23, 187.

2.     Determinants in the Evolution of the European Chemical Industry, 1900-1939: New Technologies, Political Frameworks, Markets and Companies; Travis, A. S.; Schröter, H. G.; Homburg, E.; Morris, P. J. T., Eds.; Kluwer Academic Publishers: Dordrecht, The Netherlands; Boston, MA; London, England, 1998. For a review see Kauffman, G. B. Ann. Sci. 2000, 57, 105–106.

3.     The German Chemical Industry in the Twentieth Century; Lesch, J. E., Ed.; Kluwer Academic Publications: Dordrecht, The Netherlands; Boston, MA; London, England, 2000. For a review see Kauffman, G. B. Angew. Chem., International Ed. Engl. 2002, 41, 186–187.

4.     IUHPS, DHS: Commission on the History of Modern Chemistry. (accessed Nov 2006). CHMC has no formal membership. Anyone interested in the history of chemistry who communicates and cooperates with the commission will be considered a member.

5.     Meinel is in charge of the CHEM-HIST listserv. To subscribe to the list and to receive information about the work of CHMC send an e-mail to and include “SUBSCRIBE CHEM-HIST” in the body of the message.

6.     Hoffmann, R. Clio’s Art in the Laboratory. Chem. Heritage Fall, 2002, 20 (3), 2.

George B. Kauffman

California State University, Fresno,

S1430-4171(06)61094-6, 10.1333/s00897061094a