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De Artes Chemiae. Chemiker und Chemie an der Alma mater Lipsiensis. Kunstschtze Buchbestnde und Arkivdokumente der Universitt Leipzig und anderer Sammlungen

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What Einstein Told his Cook
Edited by Robert L.
Wolke and Marlene
Parrish. W. W.
Northon & Co.,
New York 2002.
350 pp., hardcover
$ 25.95.—ISBN
The mystery of the striking and rather
sensational title of this nicely produced
book is answered by its subtitle,
“Kitchen Science Explained”, which
indicates what it is mainly about. So we
have here another book dealing with the
chemistry of cooking. Quite a number of
books on this subject have appeared in
the last ten years, and the most important of them have been reviewed in this
journal. Does this book offer anything
new, or does it at least present the
already familiar material effectively?
Even before reading the preface, we
learn that Robert L. Wolke has previously written several popular science
books with titles that include the name
Einstein. He is an emeritus professor of
chemistry, an amateur cook, and furthermore, as a main job rather than as a
mere sideline, a scientific journalist
specializing in “chemistry in the
kitchen”. This book was written in
collaboration with his wife Marlene
Parrish, a food critic and domestic
science teacher. The result is more
than just an acceptable book, it is
excellent! It is certainly the best book
of its kind on the market. It achieves a
unique combination of qualities: the
chemical and physical processes are
described with scientific accuracy, yet
with the necessary conciseness, in a way
that can be understood by nonchemists;
the style is very clear and lively, spiced
with humorous comments, and the
authors always present a factual and
unbiased evaluation, avoiding the prejudices and incorrect information about
foods and their preparation that are all
too common. In particular, the recipes
that are scattered throughout the book
specify the ingredients, quantities, and
procedures with a clarity and precision
that one does not usually find in the
cookbooks written by professional
cooks. The French-inspired recipes of
Herv2 This may perhaps be more tasty,
but those in this book are written fully
and precisely.
I especially liked the chapter about
sugar, where the authors firmly refute
the persistent myth of “unhealthy
refined sugar”, the one about salt in its
different forms, about fat (which is at
last clearly described from a chemical
standpoint), about meat and fish and
their different cooking times, and last
but not least about cooking equipment
and kitchen tools. Nowhere else has the
microwave oven been described so correctly and accurately, in a clearly understandable, but also light and humorous
way, culminating finally in an answer to
the question “can the microwaves leak
out the box and cook the cook?” The
discussion of frying pans is also excellent, dealing with aspects such as the
best material for the pan and the question of surface coating.
Only praise, no criticisms? Yes,
unfortunately a quite serious one: the
book has been written exclusively for
American readers. Moreover, it is incapable of being translated for Europeans.
The problem is not the American English, nor even the use throughout of nonmetric or unfamiliar units (cup, tablespoon, quart, ounce, 8F), which one
could manage with a little effort—it is
the wealth of expressions from American everyday life that one meets on
every page. There are terms such as
“prime rib” or “sirloin”, the “margarita”
as a drink familiar to everybody, the use
of arrowroot flour for thickening, “highfructose corn syrup” for sweetening,
“decaf” as the usual version of coffee,
and even the “doggie box” made of
polystyrene and the problems that it
causes when warming up in the micro-
= 2003 Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim
wave oven—all of which are very American. Less troublesome, but also unnecessary, are the rather forced, jokingly
intended, vernacular phrases such as
“Lemme:splain it to ya”.
Summary: this is a wonderful book,
and will be read with pleasure by those
who are familiar with American life,
who value the accuracy of the descriptions, and who appreciate the often
subtle irony in the many humorous
Peter Weyerstahl
Institut f*r Organische Chemie
Technische Universit0t Berlin (Germany)
De Artes Chemiae
Chemiker und
Chemie an der
Alma mater Lipsiensis. Kunstsch0tze, Buchbest0nde
und Arkivdokumente der Universit0t Leipzig und
anderer Sammlungen. By Lothar Beyer and Rainer Behrends.
Passage-Verlag, Leipzig 2003. 224 pp.,
hardcover E 23.00.—ISBN 3-932900-75-8
This book is intended for everyone with
an interest in the history of chemistry, or
in the city of Leipzig with its fine
collections of art and literature, and
those of its venerable university (Alma
mater Lipsiensis)—or indeed in all of
these together: the historic documents,
sculptures, portrait paintings, and pictures that show alchemists' “kitchens”
and chemical laboratories.
With great care and with obvious
pleasure in the task, the two authors
have researched the themes of chemistry in art and of art in chemistry, all from
a historical viewpoint and specifically in
relation to Leipzig. The idea of tracing
the development of a science through its
relevant artistic and historical documentation is, of course, not new, and the
authors themselves, in their introductory chapter, mention a number of
Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2003, 42, 5386 – 5388
analogous studies related to other fields
of scientific research and to particular
places. The relationships between art
and science have long been a subject of
great interest to artists, historians, and
scientists. This history of chemistry in
Leipzig, from the viewpoint of two
scientific historians with much experience in researching archives and works
of art, covers a wide field and is clearly
and impressively presented. It enriches
the literature of the city, and is a worthy
contribution to the preparations for
marking the 600th anniversary (in
2009) of the founding of the University
of Leipzig.
The authors treat the material chronologically, which is in fact the only
effective way to present the great wealth
of information about the lives and
achievements of individuals and about
other aspects, which is further enriched
by detailed biographies of a number of
chemists and artists. They nearly always
avoid giving their own artistic evaluations, as the aim is to describe the works
and documents, not to interpret them
from an esthetic standpoint.
The introduction invites the reader
to consider colors, shapes, and crystalline and architectural structures from
different aspects, and discusses some
examples of artistic stimuli or experiences. Thus, in considering a painting by W.
Kandinski, the question of whether or
not the composition study in each plane
corresponds to the stereoscopic lattice
architecture of FeII4 is left for the reader
to decide, but the suggestion is certainly
The first chapter is devoted to the
age of alchemy, which is described by
pictures and sculptures from Leipzig
collections that originate from different
countries and periods. This way of
presenting the collection of material,
which ranges from Egypt to Europe, and
from 16th-century portraits of Paracelsus to Bernhard Heisig's 1996 lithograph, reveals some interesting aspects
of cultural history. The discussion about
the “Liber de arte Distillandi” from
1512 is also very interesting.
That chapter is followed by portraits
and a sculpture showing M. H. Horn, the
first Professor of Chemistry at the University of Leipzig, and a discussion
about his life and work. Also, somewhat
hidden inside that biography, the
Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2003, 42, 5386 – 5388
account moves forward into the 17th
and 18th centuries. However, the
authors do not go into detail about the
advances in chemistry in Leipzig during
that period.
In contrast to that, and rather surprisingly, the transition into the 19th and
far into the 20th century is treated much
more factually and precisely (with even
a sidelong look at physics, mentioning
W. Nernst, for example). Factual and
biographical details about O. L. Erdmann, H. Kolbe, Th. Curtius, and others
are included, and illustrated by busts,
portraits, and photographs of classical
laboratory buildings such as the “Fridericianum”. Also shown here, reproduced
from collections in Leipzig, are extracts
from letters by J. v. Liebig and F.
After some reproductions of bronze
plaques by J. Wislicenus, A. Hantzsch,
W. Treibs, and L. Wolf and some further
discussions, we come to one of the most
important scientists in the book, already
mentioned several times in earlier chapters, W. Ostwald (awarded the Nobel
Prize in 1909). He was active in Leipzig
from 1887 onward, and was very highly
regarded not only as a physical chemist
but also as a teacher and publicist for
science. Moreover, he was also a gifted
amateur artist, and several of his paintings are reproduced in the book. Later
he concentrated his efforts on experimental and theoretical work on color
measurement, which he himself rated as
his most important work. Thus, Ostwald
is an outstanding figure in this book,
both with regard to his personality and
his work. Therefore, it is not surprising
that the authors devote considerable
space to Ostwald, not only as one of
the founders of physical chemistry but
also in other areas. His studies of color
normalization are mentioned, and in
particular his development of the
theory of color is described briefly.
During his lifetime his work had significant influences in the areas of industrial
applications, popular education, trade
associations, and the Bauhaus art movement, but his ideas met with opposition
from physicists.
Since photography is based on
chemistry and is also an art form, it is
appropriate that photographic portraits
are included in the book, even where
their role is just as records of their time.
Text and photographs are combined in
descriptions of C. Bosch (also with
paintings and busts in this case), F.
Bergius, E. O. Beckmann, and other
20th-century figures, extending almost
to the present. They are arranged
according to the fields in which they
worked. This survey of chemistry in
Leipzig, as seen through the medium
of relevant artistic works, ends with a
gallery of the rectors of the University of
The appendix contains a thorough
and precise bibliography, a meticulously
accurate list of illustrations, an index of
names with dates of birth and death, and
a four-page table listing the chemistry
professors and faculties in chronological
order. It would also have been useful to
provide a keyword index and an index of
place names.
It must have been difficult for the
authors to devote appropriate space to
the various personalities in this chemical
history, as their relative importance to
chemistry varies widely, as also does the
amount of available information about
them, and furthermore not all of them
have been depicted in works of art.
Thus, it is all the more pleasing that
Leipzig has paintings on the theme of
alchemy by artists such as D. Teniers and
T. Wijck, and also some other rare
The publishers, Passage-Verlag, are
to be congratulated on the excellent
quality of the illustrations and the page
layout. We have enjoyed the book
greatly, and hope that it will reach a
wide readership.
Regine Zott, Gisela Boeck
Berlin and Rostock (Germany)
DOI: 10.1002/anie.200385036
= 2003 Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim
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