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Book Review Chemistry of the Elements. By N. N. Greenwood and A. Earnshaw

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Kirk-Othmer Concise Encyclopedia of Chemical Technology. Edited by M . Grayson and D. Eckroth. John Wiley
and Sons, New York 1985. xxxii, 1318 pp., bound,
$ 172.85.- ISBN 0-47 1-86977-5.
The condensation of twenty-six volumes of information
into a single reference volume is a formidable task, especially when not only text but also a large number of tables,
figures, graphs, charts, formulas, and even pictures are involved. The editors of the renowned Kirk-Othmer Encyclopedia of Chemical Technology have achieved this goal in
such a way that the abridgment, the Concise Encyclopedia
of Chemical Technology, should find wide use, both by
professionals as a single source of key information and as
a guide to further literature and by students as a lucid introduction to the multifarious aspects of the chemical industry.
Each subject in the twenty-four main volumes and supplementary volume of the parent work has been condensed
and, in some cases, updated. The entries include important
chemical substances (acetaldehyde to zirconium), chemical
processes (absorption to zone refining), and the many facets of chemical technology itself (from the manufacture of
dyes and the processing of milk to the large-scale production of antibiotics and chemotherapeutic agents and the recent applications of genetic engineering). The curious
reader will find discussions of the design of experiments,
fine art examination and conservation, information retrieval, nomenclature, patents, recycling, regulatory agencies,
trademarks and copyrights, and much more.
Only a small fraction of the original tables and figures
remain, but those selected are the most important. Likewise, the number of references has been drastically reduced, but those given are fairly up-to-date and enable the
reader to locate efficiently further sources of information.
Moreover, the numerous formulas, subheadings, and
cross-references, as well as the index, facilitate the search
for specific facts. Lists of conversion factors, abbreviations, and unit symbols at the front and of nomenclature
under some entries (for example, “Mass Transfer” and
“Thermodynamics”) further assist the reader.
The entry “Phosphorus Compounds” illustrates the
amount of condensation involved. In the third edition of
Kirk-Othmer, the subject is treated in fifty pages, which include eighteen tables and nine figures and conclude with
sixty-seven references. The Concise Encyclopedia handles
the subject in a little over two pages, three tables, and five
general references (although the smaller print size and the
larger pages roughly double the informational content per
page). Nonetheless, the entry presents key information, including the physical properties of the phosphorus sulfides,
halides, and oxides, the phosphorous acids, the phosphazenes and other phosphorus-nitrogen compounds, and
phosphine and its derivatives as well as descriptions of
their industrial preparation and main applications. Illustrated are the structures of the phosphorus 0x0 acids and
the phosphorus sulfides along with a diagram of a plant
for the production of phosphorus trichloride and phosphorus pentachloride.
Of course, any reference work that attempts to distill the
essentials of so huge a body of information as that presented in Kirk-Ofhmer’s third edition is bound to disappoint at times. The individual reader will no doubt find the
treatment of some topics too cursory and that of others too
drawn out. Moreover, the explosive growth in the number
of new chemical substances and the continual introduction
of new technologies will outdate some entries. These limitations are inherent in any such work, however, and are
more than outweighed by the sheer wealth of useful information that is presented here in a well-organized, clearly
written manner. My only qualm is that the price may deter
some, especially students, from purchasing the book,
which, in order to be most useful, should be readily at
David I. Loewus [NB 730 IE]
Angewandte Chemie, Weinheim
Chemistry of the Elements. By N . N . Greenwood and A .
Earnshaw. Pergamon Press, Oxford 1984, 1542 pp.,
hardback, $ 95.00.--ISBN 0-08-022056-8
The appearance of a new textbook on a fundamental
scientific discipline is an important literary occurrence. If
the new work can establish itself, it will influence the
knowledge and way of thinking of generations of students
for years to come. The existing works have certainly done
this, and the traces are generally easy to identify. The author’s selection of material and his distribution of emphasis amongst the theoretical concepts can direct a mass of
young talents towards certain areas while others remain
apparently unattractive-at least they were to the author.
Furthermore, it is the case that if standard works d o not
accomodate new material early enough, then the rising
generation is educated in a certain language with inadequate teaching and learning aids while those learning in
other languages are already getting to grips with new perspectives.
Such disadvantageous developments can only be
avoided if genuine alternatives appear on the market and
lead to fruitful competition. In this sense the appearance
of the German translation of Cotton and Wilkinson was, in
its day, the extraordinarily beneficial compensation for the
failings of Holleman- Wiberg that was then unmistakably
showing its age. This is not to imply that from then on
everyone would be happy with the new style of textbookit quickly becomes evident from edition to edition that
many outmoded ideas may have been opposed too forcefully.
Greenwood and Earnshaw. which has been available
from mid 1984 is a very remarkable book, quite aside from
its natural r6le as a complement to the assortment of traditional texts. In a “test drive” over several months, this reviewer got so used to the new vehicle that he rarely wanted
to bring the other models out of the garage. The book
rarely disappointed, neither when complete chapters were
used to refresh knowledge nor when “spot checks” were
made to recall individual facts. Incidentally, it should be
emphasized at the outset that, in spite of the title, this is a
textbook of inorganic chemistry. This is true at any rate to
the extent that no organic chemistry is included. Fortunately, fringe areas in all directions are considered so that
practically no stone is left unturned in respect of the definition of inorganic chemistry, surprisingly dismissed in the
foreword as an outmoded concept.
The greatest advantage of the book is that it has already
taken into account the most up to date developments. The
Angew. Chem. Inr. Ed. Engl. 25 (1986)
No. 2
extensive bibliography is spread through the text; its entries, both in the biographical/historical part and, not
least, in the scientific/technical sections really d o extend
into 1983. Naturally, it would have been astounding if this
success had been uniform and it must be said that, for example, more than 2 sentences (on p. 110) could have been
wished on the natride ion, Na-, and on the corresponding
oxidation state of gold, Au-, (on p. 1367); nor is the most
recent technology in iron and steel production included.
Yet such points are exceptions which require practically
microscopic examination of the text.
Optically the text is well produced with pleasing formula depictions and clearly laid out tables and diagrams.
Annoyingly, the latter are not free of mistakes: on p. 58 the
caption is twiceover puzzling (H2!). Blocks of text printed
on a grey background emphasize special sections; for
some people this will seem overdone since it breaks up the
continuity of the text o r at least renders it clumsy. The theoretical chapters and the selection of material show a distinct preference for the s and p block elements, to which
1000 of the total 1500 pages are given over. d and f block
elements are banished to the last third of the book so that
little space remains for their coordination and organometallic chemistry. However, this does not amount to being
“anti Cotton and Wilkinson”, since it is precisely in the
chapters on the transition elements that the authors have
striven to pick out the essential points from a superabundance of facts.
Ultimately the question must be posed whether the book
leans toward molecular or solid state chemistry and
whether it can be recommended to protagonists of either
case. The answer must be that the former prevails. Here
the book is best able to satisfy high expectations. However,
in all the other passages too it makes fascinating reading
material, especially for students in first or middle semesters, as well as for the practising chemist and the chemistry
The presentation of the book is pleasing and convenient; the English is pleasantly relaxed but still precise.
The book could well be taken from the writing desk, if not
straight into bed, at least as far as the sofa. For around
DM 100 (in paperback) it is edifying entertainment, well
worth the money.
Is a German translation desirable? For reasons already
given in the introduction this would be an enrichment, assuming that the German version was immediately brought
back up to date and that the language was kept as fluent as
in the original so that nothing was lost in this respect. The
book would then easily be in a position to compete with
(the new) Holleman-Wiberg and Cotton and Wilkinson
could only stay in contention so long as it too was modernized and reorganized.
In the introduction (by R . J . GilLespie) and in the authors’ foreword referred to above, it transpires that
“Chemistry of the Elements” breaks with the tradition of
British and American textbooks insofar that it i s concerned
more with timeless facts and phenomena, which theoretical concepts can be measured against and directed towards. This is supposed to stimulate the curiosity without
which future research cannot thrive. As is well known, this
approach is not so novel in German textbooks and so this
newcomer fits well into our landscape.
Professor Greenwood was distinguished in 1983 with one
of the major awards of the German Chemical Society. He
would have deserved it for this textbook alone, even if
many of the modern results about boron compounds were
not based on his scientific work. In the circumstances noAnyew C h m . Inr. Ed. Engl. 25 11986) No. 2
one would begrudge the fact that the chapter on boron hydride compounds has turned out too long.
Hubert Schmidbaur [NB 688 IE]
Anorganisch-chemisches Institut
der Technischen Universitat Munchen (FRG)
The Chemistry of the Catalyzed Hydrogenation of Carbon
Monoxide. By G . Henrici-Olivh and S. Olive. Springer
Verlag, Berlin 1984. x, 231 pp., hardback, DM 146.00.ISBN 3-540-13292-9
The oil crisis and a looming oil shortage have brought
about strong growth in the interest in carbon monoxide derived from coal. In recent years various monographs concerned with the hydrogenation of carbon monoxide have
already appeared. Thus, duplications in the description of
CO hydrogenation reactions were inevitable. The book at
hand, which deals with the literature up to the beginning
of 1984, gives a good survey of the present state, and of the
problems encountered in homogeneous and heterogeneous
catalytic hydrogenation of CO. Mechanistic considerations
assume a central position, and the chemistry of organometallic complexes stands, to a certain degree, at the center of
attention. The attempt to build a bridge between molecular
chemistry and possible surface species is successful. The
authors have been able to choose the essential aspects of
the relevant coordination chemistry from the extensive literature and have illustrated clearly the “metal-organic
zoo” of possible surface compounds by model reactions.
Here the book is of great value.
In 11 chapters the following areas are covered: Transition metal-hydrogen/carbon monoxide interactions: those
reactions that are seen as significant in the hydrogenation
of CO, e.g. hydride formation, C O coordination and C O
bond cleavage are introduced in two opening chapters.
Non-catalytic interactions of CO with H,: apart from mechanistic aspects of the interaction of C O and H2, the formation of formyl-, formaldehyde-, methoxy-, and carbide
complexes is dealt with. Key reactions in catalysis: this
chapter is devoted to certain key reactions, e.g. insertion of
CO, formaldehyde and olefins, as well as elimination of
hydrogen and the influence of ligands. Catalysts and supports: here the interactions of molecular complexes with
carriers is presented. Methanation: after the first part of
this book has mainly been concerned with model reactions, the consideration of catalytic processes begins with
methanation. Again, mechanistic aspects such as carbide
mechanism and CO insertion mechanism are the central
themes. Methanol from CO and H,: the homogeneous and
heterogeneous catalysis of methanol formation is described in this very short chapter. Fischer-Tropsch synthesis;
this is the longest chapter. Alongside model reactions
stand such technical parameters as the influence of pressure and temperature. Homogeneous CO hydrogenation: in
the first section hydroformylation is introduced, in the second, the formation of polyalcohols. Methanol a s raw material: this chapter, which is concerned with the homologation and conversion of methanol on zeolites, does not entirely fit in the supposed context of CO-hydrogenation.Attempt of unified view: In this chapter an attempt is made to
simplify the general problem of C O hydrogenation from a
mechanistic standpoint,
For those interested in the chemistry of organometallic
complexes, the book contains many well known reactions.
Nevertheless, the purchase of this book can be recommended on account of its comprehensive approach. It of-
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