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Encyclopedia of the Elements. Technical Data History Processing Applications

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other metals, particularly with Li, and it
includes an interesting overview of
Grignard reagents in radical reactions.
The chapters on Si, Ge, Sn, and Pb are
probably the most consistent with each
other, encompassing detailed descriptions of, amongst others, allylation reactions and the formation and reactions of
enolates. The chapter on Sb and Bi is
understandably short, but is well-organized, and provides a taste of the potential that exists for further development
of the chemistry of bismuth, a heavy
metal of relatively low toxicity.
In summary, although these two volumes cover some ground that can also
be found in other substantial works of
reference, they neatly collate the vast
field of “metal-mediated” organic synthesis under the discipline of the individual metals themselves. Thus, the general
thrust of this book is to alert readers to a
rich and diverse metal-based chemistry,
which should lead to new and interesting
developments and directions.
Phil Andrews
School of Chemistry
Monash University
Melbourne (Australia)
Encyclopedia of the Elements
Technical Data,
History, Processing, Applications.
By Per Enghag.
Wiley-VCH, Weinheim 2004.
1243 pp., hardcover
E 259.00.—ISBN
When you need to know something
about an element quickly, where do
you look? In a textbook of inorganic
chemistry, or, if you want to be really
thorough, in Gmelins Handbook of
Inorganic Chemistry? The latter is, of
course, a treasure chest of information,
but it consists of a huge number of volumes, some of which have not yet been
updated to reflect the current state of
knowledge. The problem has now been
solved in the form of this Encyclopedia
of the Elements, by the Swedish materials scientist Per Enghag. The work
offers more than just a description of
the chemical elements—it is also a compendium of the historical development
of materials, of trades, and of industry,
perhaps even including the cultural history of humanity. The author believes
that chemists, physicists, mineralogists,
metallurgists, and students of various
related disciplines are eager to learn
about the history of the elements, their
properties, and their applications. An
important aim of the book is to show
the links between science and technology on one hand, and culture and its historical development on the other hand.
Therefore, the author devotes considerable space to describing the exact circumstances of the discovery of an element, and often includes detailed biographical information about the discoverer—as, for example, in the case of
Marie Sklodowska-Curie.
To set the mood, the book begins
with 76 color pictures of minerals and
pure chemical elements. Chapter 1
then presents a rather epic-scale introduction which explains the authors
motives for writing the book, its structure, and how it should be read and
used. The “Fact Tables”, which are
given at the beginning of each of the
later chapters on individual elements,
are explained. These tables (six for
each chapter) list the elements data in
the context of the Periodic System, its
electronic configuration, crystal structure, etc., together with information
about its discovery and occurrence,
chemical characterization, physical
properties, thermodynamic properties,
and lastly its nuclear properties and its
NMR spectroscopic and X-ray diffraction data. The tables are clearly set out
and are limited to essentials, which
makes them informative and easy to
Chapter 2, “About Matter”, gives a
very comprehensive outline of the
beginnings of technology and scientific
research and their development from
prehistoric times to the present, showing
how scientific knowledge began through
the work of the craftsman and artisan.
According to the authors view, it was
2005 Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim
peoples continual search for useful
materials to improve their living conditions that eventually led to the study of
chemistry, centered around the problems of how to make materials for different purposes and to find suitable sources
of raw materials. The author then jumps
back in time to the Greek philosophers
of the fourth and fifth centuries BC, to
Empedocles with the concept of the
four elements earth, water, air, and
fire, to Leucippos and Democritus with
the idea of the atom, and finally to Aristotle. All this is described very clearly
and vividly, and the author has a story
to tell about each of the individuals concerned. That is followed by a long section on alchemy and the Middle Ages,
the wind of change in the 17th century,
phlogiston, etc. It is all described with
a great love of detail, while also being
excellent reading throughout. Rather
surprisingly, but nevertheless with a certain logic, the chapter approaches its
end with a description of the latest electron-microscopic methods for studying
materials. Finally there is a short section
in which the author (not too seriously)
describes nanotechnology, the latest
achievement in materials science, not
only as “the alchemy of the new millenium” but also as “craftsmanship on the
atomic scale”.
Chapter 3 deals with the origins,
occurrence, discovery, and naming of
the elements, and begins with the synthesis of elements in stars and supernova
explosionss. From that cosmological
level we then descend to consider the
planet Earth and its structure, extending
up to the troposphere. This broad topic
then leads naturally to the history of
the Periodic System, in the context of
which we also learn, of course, about
the life history of the Mendeleev
family in Tobolsk, Siberia, and the
career of Dmitri Mendeleev (the youngest of 14 children).
The authors wide-ranging approach
and interest in each topic is also evident
when he examines the question of who
deserves the credit for the discovery of
a new element. Should it be the one
who discovered the mineral, but was
only able to prove that it must contain
a hitherto unknown element? Or
should it be he who first isolated the
oxide of the element, then reduced it
and finally had the new metal before
Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2005, 44, 3173 – 3175
him in the crucible? Another detail that
interests the author in this context is the
origin of the name of each element.
Here Enghag reveals his wide reading
about the etymology, and he also speculates about what it must have meant to a
discoverer to be able to give a name to a
new element.
The fourth and last of these introductory chapters is concerned with geochemical aspects. Here we learn about
the Harkins rules concerning the relative abundances of elements with even
and odd atomic numbers. A long section
is devoted to Viktor Goldschmidt, the
founder of modern geochemistry. That
is followed by sections on isotopes and
on methods based on radioactivity for
determining the age of minerals.
After being very thoroughly prepared by the above chapters, we are
now ready to look up the first element,
gold, in Chapter 5, or to begin reading
in any of the other 47 chapters devoted
to specific elements or groups of elements. Taking into account my own
Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2005, 44, 3173 – 3175
area of interest, I will pick out Chapter 18 on titanium. Like all the other element chapters, it begins with the “Fact
Tables” listing physicochemical data,
which are then followed by sections on
the discovery of titanium, on titanium
minerals, on the production of titanium
white (TiO2), on titanium as a metal or
in alloys, and so on, through to a section
on modern applications of titanium and
its compounds. I came across topics such
as the metals corrosion-resistant properties, its compatibility with human tissues, its virtues as a “metal for the
space age”, titanium carbide, and titanium nitride, but I failed to find any discussion about the use of titanium compounds such as Ziegler catalysts in
industrially very important polymerization processes. Here I must make a
small critical comment: the role of catalysis in general could have been covered
in more detail.
To write a book such as this is an
enormous undertaking, and the author
deserves our admiration for his achieve-
ment. Enghag has succeeded brilliantly
in his aim of addressing readers from
different disciplines and holding their
attention. In the book, he combines
deep knowledge with an ability to present the subject in a way that is both
clearly understandable and exciting.
The bibliographies attached to all the
chapters also earn praise, as they present
a compact and cleverly chosen selection
that covers the most important primary
and secondary literature. This excellent
encyclopedia deserves to reach a wide
readership, and it is to be hoped that it
will be bought by many university,
senior school, and even city libraries.
Gerhard Fink
Max-Planck-Institut fr Kohlenforschung
Mlheim an der Ruhr (Germany)
DOI: 10.1002/anie.200485241
2005 Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim
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data, elements, application, technical, history, encyclopedia, processing
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