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Book Review Geschichte der Chemie (History of Chemistry) by H. Kopp. Translated by H. Baantov. Edited in German by K

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Geschiche der Chemie seit dem Wiederaufleben der Wissenschaften bis an das Ende des 18. Jahrhunderts (The history
of chemistry from the scientific renaissance to the end of
the 18th century) by J. F. Gmelin. 3 volumes, with viii, 777;
790, and 11,1288 pages and index (unpaginated, 96 pages).
Reprographic reprint of the Gottingen edition 1797/1798/
1799. Georg Olms Verlagsbuchhandlung, Hildesheim 1965;
D M 398.-.
Geschichte der Chemie (History of Chemistry), by H . Kopp,
4 volumes, with XIX, 456; X, 428; XII, 373, and XVI,
446 pages. Repropraphic reprint of the Braunschweig
edition 1843/1844/1845/1847. Georg Olms Verlagsbuchhandlung, Hjldesheim 1966; DM 232.-.
The discussion of these two works together reveals, apart
from the subject, a n interesting relation between the authors.
Johann Friedrich Gmelin (1748-1804), Professor of Medicine
and Philosophy at Gottingen, was the father of Leopold
Gmelin (1788-1853), the originator of the “Handbuch der
theoretischen Chemie” (1817/1819), which in its 5th edition
(1852J1853) was renamed “Handbuch der anorganischen
Chemie”. Leopold Gmelin, as Professor of Chemistry at Heidelberg, was the teacher of Hermann Kopp (1817-1892), who
at the age of 26 started to publish his famous history of
chemistry, which is still regarded as a standard work.
J. F. Gmelin’s history forms Part 8 of a “History of the Arts,
and Sciences, by a Group of Learned Authors”, which was
to be an encyclopedia of the development of the natural
sciences up to the beginning of the 18th century. A few years
earlier, Juhann Christian Wiegleb’s three-volume “Geschichte
des Wachsthums und der Erfindungen in der Chemie in der
netlren Zeit” (1790/1791) and “. . . in der altesten und mittlern Zeit” (1792), which contains a wealth of facts, had been
published. Gmelin was aware of the complex and often
contradictory material that had to be molded into a history.
In the introduction to the first volume he wrote “Of all the
sciences and arts that have engaged the human mind, few
have undergone such frequent and rapid changes through the
ages, and have had to overcome so many difficulties in their
formation, elucidation, and perfection from their earliest
infancy up to our own times, as chemistry”. The author
therefore maintains in the preface that the historian cannot
achieve any useful purpose unless be is aware of the signiffcance of the science with which he is dealing. On the other
hand, he should not “allow himself to be carried away by
passionate love of the subject to such a n extent that the
attributes to it unfounded exclusive privileges for the education of mankind and for the perfection of other sciences
and arts”.
In accordance with his intention “to remain true to fact in
this description of the fortunes of chemistry”, he unfolded
before his contemporaries a comprehensive picture of
chemistry as it appeared to him with the chemical knowledge
of that time. His information, arranged chronologically
rather than by subject, is substantiated by numerous references to the earlier and to contemporary literature. However,
this work is nowadays generally regarded as having little
permanent interest, and is because of the many errors that
it contains often disposed of in a few words. This is most
unjust in the reviewer’s opinion, since the work provides a
veritable mine of early views and opinions for the presentday historian.
In the development scheme of historiography given by
H . Breysig in 1931, Gmelin’s work wouid undoubtedly belong
to the purely factual phase, though the facts were subjected
to a certain critical evaluation. Johann Bartholomii Trommsdorffs “Versuch einer allgemeinen Geschichte der Chemie”
(Erfurt 1806) and Thomas Thomson’s two-volume “History
of Chemistry”, which was published in London in 1830/1831
and is described by J. R. Partington as “still of value”, since
it also makes extensive reference to the original sources, also
belong to this phase.
The second phase, classificatory historiography, began with
Alexander von Humboldt’s five-volume work, “Kosmos, Entwurf einer physischen Weltbeschreibung” (Stuttgart 1845/
18621, wLich also formed the highlight of this phase. In the
first volume of this monumental interpretation of knowledge
of r.atural science, the author says that the purpose of such a
description is “to recognize the unit in the multiplicity; to
embrace all that recent discoveries hold out to us about the
particular; to examine and sift the details without being
overcome by their weight”. Thus this work paved the way
for a turning point in the approach to history, i.e. the replacement of a listing of facts by their classification and the
extraction from them of ideas serving as a basis for new
The first work of this type on the history of chemistry was
probably Ferdinand Hoefer’s two-volume “Histoire de la
chimie depuis les temps les plus reculbs jusqu’a notre 6poque”
(Paris 1842/1843). By the use of the Greek and Latin manuscripts available at the “Bibliotheque Nationale” in Paris,
this author was able to present, in many respects, a better
picture of the earlier period of chemistry than K ~ p p ,though,
as Berthelot was also to d o later, he made many errors of
interpretation. Kopp’s history of chemistry will therefore be
generally regarded as more reliable.
Kopp gives a reason that is very common even today for the
compilation of his history, which arose from notes that had
become so comprehensive “that it seemed to be useful to
arrange and publish them”. Thus in the preface to the first
volume he says, “The decision. . . . to publish this work was
largely influenced by the fact that the history of chemistry
seems to have been a much neglected field of research in
recent decades”. This was only natural, since these years were
marked by the work in the new field of synthetic organic
chemistry, and wceees and progress counted for much more
than retrograde understanding.
However, Kopp regarded this understanding and the discovery of relationships as important. “Past historians”, he
wrote, “attempted to report all the achievements of all
chemists in one order, i.e. in chronological order. Owing to
the volume and diversity of the material, however, a work
arranged in this manner, though possibly complete in other
respects, can only contain a confusion of unrelated discoveries”.
Up to our own time, Kopp’s work remained the comprehensive work on the history of chemistry. Supplemented later by
the “Entwicklung der Chemie in der neuren Zeit” (Munchen
1873), ,,Beitrage zur Geschichte der Chemie” (3 parts,
Braunschweig 1869/1875), and “Alchemie in alterer und
neuerer Zeit” (Heidelberg 1886), it was the only comprehensive work, apart from Hoefer’s, that referred to the original
sources. Smaller works such as Ernst von Meyer’s “Geschichte
der Chemie von den 2iltesten Zeiten bis zur Gegenwart”
(Leipzig 1889 and later editions) was largely based on this
history by Kopp.
Parallel to the development in chemistry itself, “specialization” began in chemical historiography even before the turn
of the century. Though at first still leading to books covering
a n entire field, such as “Geschichte der organischen Chemie
von altester Zeit bis zur Gegenwart” by Edvard Hjelt (Braunschweig 1916) or the “Geschichte der organischen Chemie”
by Carl Graebe (Berlin 1920), historical research moved into
ever narrower sectors, the results of which were published in
journals and monographs.
As a result of this specialization, it naturally became necessary to correct many of Kopp’s data, but there was at first
no author to be found to write such a modified general
history. It was only in 1961, 120 years after the publication
of Kopp’s work, that J . R . Partington’s “History o f ChemAngew. Chem. internat. Edit. J Vol. 6 (1967)
No. 6
istry” began t o appear {four volumes, the last of which is
still to be published).
Have therefore, in view of these developments, works such
as those by Gmelin and Kopp become superfluous? For the
reader interested in a given event in the development of
chemistry, Partington may be more suitable, since it presents
the current state of knowledge. However, for those with a
deeper interest in the problems of the history of chemistry,
it will still be necessary to return to the earlier publications,
since Gmeiin and Kopp present the knowledge of their time
in a lucid form. The publishers therefore have good reason to
include these two works in their reprint program.
W . Ruske
[NB 559 IEI
Grundlagen der Polarographie (Principles of Polarography)
by J . Heyrovsk? and J . K h a . Translated by H . Baiantova.
Edited in German by K. Sch wnbe. Akadeniie-Verlag, Berlin 1965. 1st Edit., xvii, 592 pp., 256 figures. D M 73.The book presents a comprehensive survey of the theoretical
principles of and the general information that can be obtained
by classical direct-current polarography, with reference to
its applications in electrochemical kinetics and the physical
chemistry of solutes. Polarography in these fields has undergone a remarkable and decisive development in the past
two decades.
The authors are successful in their aim of explaining the
basic theoretical aspects without losing themselves in details
of the mathematical derivations, which easily can be found
in the original literature cited. The style is fluid and clear, so
that the theoretical problems of polarography, which often
are not entirely free from complications, are made accessible
even to the novice. The experienced worker will also find this
a n indispensable and frequently consulted reference work.
This applies, not only to specialists in polaropraphy, but to
electrocheniists in general and all ihose concerned with the
application of electrochemical techniques. The present
volume, which reflects more than 49 years’ experience of the
originator of polarography and his co-worker k&a, can
therefore be recommended to a wide &cle\,of readers. It is
to be hoped that this book will lead to a more intensive use
of the versatile possibilities of the polarographic method.
The present work clearly refutes the view that polarography
is unsuitable for fundamental problems. Provided that there
is freedom of choice concerning the electrode material, as is
usually the case in fundamental problems, the opposite is in
fact true, and polarographic methods become the method
of choice.
The Czech edition has been added to and brought up to date
in the German translation, which takes into account the
literature up to the beginning of the 1960’s. The subject
matter is divided into 22 chapters, which deal with the
following topics: physics of the dropping-mercury and mercury-jet electrodes, influence of the resistance of the electrolyte, theory of the diffusion current and kinetically controlled
limiting currents, the theory of reversible and irreversible
steps including their behavior in the case of complexes and
semiquinones, the evolution of hydrogen and its catalysis, adsorption and inhibition, maxima, the uses of the hitherto much
neglected Kalousek switching circuit and the theory of the re-
sulting currents, and oscillographic polarography, with special
emphasis on the Heyrovskd version. The appendix contains
a useful table of half-wave potentials of inorganic and many
organic depolarizers in a series of supporting electrolytes. The
reviewer would have welcomed a more thorough treatment of
the double-layer effect. The results for the dissociation and
recombination kinetics of weak acids also require a much
more critical discussion than the footnote to Table 17/3.
Finally, it should be pointed out that the numerous novel
polarographic techniques, which open up formerly closed
fields to electrochemical kinetics and offer a wealth of new
information, are almost completely absent. Alternatingcurrent, square-wave, and pulse polarography are mentioned
only briefly, and while the increased instrumental demands
are stressed no list is given of the far-reaching possibilities thus
gained. No mention is made of second-order techniques (such
as Faraday rectification, the use of higher harmonics, and
intermodulation methods). The treatment of oscillographic
pulse methods is also too short.
The German edition unfortunately contains more printing
errors than such an important book should. The presentation
H . W. Niirnberg
[NB 556 IE]
and binding are good.
An Introduction to Electron Paramagnetic Resonance. By M .
Bersohn and J . C. Baird. From the series “Frontiers in
Chemistry”. W. A. Benjamin, Inc., New York-Amsterdam
1966. 1st Edit., xi, 274 pp., 110 figures, $15.00.
After a general introduction, the authors devote about 120
pages (Chapters 3 to 10) to hyperfine structure, relaxation,
g factors, quantitative measurements, organic radicals,
triplets, inorganic compounds, and double-resonance; a
further 40 pages (Chapters 11 and 12) deal with applications
in chemistry and biology. The appendix gives a more quantitative presentation of the interactions in the two-spin system, and the book ends with a list of the coupling constants
of 130 selected organic radicals and radical ions.
The book is intended for chemists and biologists having no
prior knowledge of the subject. The picture presented is very
general, since e.g. the following topics are covered in a total
of about 30 pages: inorganic radicals, metal complexes,
nonconductors, metals, Mossbauer effect-(lllz pages !), Overhauser effect, ENDOR, optical pumping, and level crossing.
A conspicuous feature of the whole book and particularly of
the tables (g factors, pp. 70/71, and coupling constants, pp.
238-2702, is the c m pl@e disregard of all but Englishlanguage literature. The physical chemist will sometimes be
disappointed by the lack of accuraw Thus in the discussion of
the intensities of the HFS components (p.80), the incorrect,
but convenient, and henqe commonly used counting rule is
described in detail for the H; ion, but the reader is not told
that two protons combine to give a singlet and a triplet,
though this is explained in a n elementary and laborious
manner for the case of electrons (p. 108).
On the whole, the reviewer has gained the impression that
the authors were pressed for time. However, despite the
shortcomings mentioned above, the book will undoubtedly
find a wide circle of readers and contribute to the growth of
interest in this modern field. K. H . H~~~~~~ [NB 570 IEI
Registered names, trademarks, etc. used in this journal, even without specific indication thereof, are not be considered unprotected by law.
0 Veriag Chemie, GmbH.,
1967. - Printed in Germany by Druckerei Winter, Heidelberg.
All rights reserved. No part of this journal may be reproduced in any form whatsoever, e.g. by photoprint. microfilm, or any other means, without
written permission from the publishers.
Editorial office: Ziegelhauser Landstrasse 35, 6900 Heidelberg, Germany, Telephone 24975, Telex 46 1855 kemia d, Cable address: Chemieredaktion
Editor: H . Grunewald Translation Editors: A . J. Rackstraw and A . Stimson.
Publishers: Veriag Chemie GmbH. (Presidents Jiirgen Kreurhage and Hans Schermer), Pappelaliee 3, 6940 Weinheim/Bergstr., Germany, and
Academic Press Inc. (President Walter J. Johnson), 1 1 1 Fifth Avenue, New York 3, N. Y., USA, and Berkeley Square House, Berkeley Square,
London, W. I , England.
Correspondence concerning advertisements should be addressed to Verlag Chemie, GmbH. (Advertising Manager W.Thiel), Pappelallee 3,
6940 WeinheidBergstr.. Telephone Weinheim 3635. Telex 4655 16 vchwb., Cable address Chemieverlag Weinheimbergstr.
Angew. Chem. internat. Edit.
Yo[. 6 (1967) 1 No. 6
5 79
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