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Book Review Kirk-Othmer Concise Encyclopedia of Chemical Technology. Edited by M. Grayson and D. Eckroth

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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
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