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Optical Spectroscopy in Chemistry and Life Sciences. By Werner Schmidt

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Optical Spectroscopy in Chemistry
and Life Sciences
By Werner Schmidt.
Wiley-VCH, Weinheim 2005.
370 pp., softcover
E 49.90.—ISBN
Optical spectroscopy has been used in
scientific research and practical applications for centuries, yet the expansion of
spectroscopic techniques into new fields
and applications does not seem to be
slowing down. In particular, new spectroscopic methods increasingly find use
in the life sciences, a development that is
sometimes hindered by the fact that the
basic principles of these methods originate in the realm of the physicist or
chemist. In this book, Werner Schmidt
attempts to bridge the gap and to help
students of (bio)chemistry and biology
gain insight into the wide range of
methods and the potential of optical
spectroscopy. To this end, he deliberately keeps the mathematical treatment
and theoretical discussion to a minimum, and puts more emphasis on providing practical examples, aiming to
convey the basic ideas rather than the
exact theoretical foundations. Although,
to the physical scientist who is “fluent”
in the language of mathematics, this may
seem a loss, it is probably a useful
approach for many students of the life
Chapter 1 provides a very brief summary of the history of optical spectroscopy, which unfortunately for the 20th
century is limited to details of technical
developments in the area of spectrophotometers instead of describing the fascinating development of the different
methods which are discussed in later
chapters during this period.
In Chapter 2, the author describes
the theoretical background that is
needed to understand the interaction
of light with matter. This chapter is a
nicely written reminder of the spectroscopic properties of atoms and molecules, starting from the hydrogen atom,
and largely avoiding mathematical
details, thus making it easily accessible
to the reader who is not mathematically
minded. However, because of the brevity of this summary, some previous
knowledge of the topics is needed, and
therefore it is unsuitable for a beginner.
A more or less comprehensive overview of practical and technical aspects of
optical spectroscopy, including light
sources, detectors, and optical elements,
is provided in Chapter 3. This chapter is
well written, and summarizes the main
concepts without overloading the reader
with too much detail. Unfortunately, the
section on lasers does not take account
of more recent developments, such as
the Ti:sapphire laser, or optical parametric amplifiers, which, because of
their highly stable performance and
ease of use, are most suitable for nonspecialist environments. However, this is
a minor point of criticism.
The remainder of the book describes
different types of optical spectroscopy in
detail: atomic absorption and emission
spectroscopies (Chapter 4), molecular
absorption spectroscopy (Chapter 5),
luminescence spectroscopy (Chapter 6),
photoacoustic spectroscopy (Chapter 7),
scattering, diffraction, and reflection
techniques (Chapter 8), circular dichroism and optical rotation measurements
(Chapter 9), and near-infrared spectroscopy (Chapter 10). Most of these chapters begin with a brief description of the
basic principles underlying the method
and the molecular processes involved,
then discuss the technical implementation and potential difficulties, and finally
provide examples. It is not possible, or
even desirable, to cover all details of so
many topics in an introductory book, but
here the author has succeeded in producing a reasonably comprehensive text,
which is also interesting to read.
- 2006 Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim
Most types of optical spectroscopies
are described in this book. It is particularly noteworthy that some less widely
used techniques which are particularly
relevant for biological research, such as
chemo- and bioluminescence or photoacoustic spectroscopy, find their place in
the book. However, I was somewhat
surprised that the author completely
ignores time-resolved spectroscopy on
short time-scales (with the exception of
a very brief description of fluorescence
lifetime measurements and, strangely
enough, time-resolved photoacoustic
spectroscopy), considering the major
contributions to chemistry and the life
sciences that time-resolved measurements have made over the last 40 years
(as indicated, for example, by the
awards of Nobel Prizes to Norrish and
Porter in 1967 and to Zewail in 1999).
Similarly, the expanding field of twophoton spectroscopy is not mentioned at
The book would have benefited
from more careful proofreading to
remove at least some of the minor
errors, particularly in the equations and
theoretical background sections, which
do not make it easier for the mathematically challenged reader to follow the
argument; in addition, quite a number
of Greek letters have turned into Latin
ones, presumably during the typesetting
process. A native English speaker will
notice at a few points that the book was
originally written in German, and
unfortunately some mistranslations
have escaped the editorial process
which in one or two cases even reverse
the meaning of the sentence.
Overall, however, the book seems a
useful introduction to the topic, particularly for life science students, since
many of the examples are taken from
biology. The book may also serve as a
quick reference source for the more
advanced student, with the additional
advantages of a comprehensive subject
index and the reading lists provided at
the end of each chapter, which will
enable the reader to delve deeper into
a specific topic of interest.
Martin Volk
Department of Chemistry
University of Liverpool (United Kingdom)
DOI: 10.1002/anie.200585340
Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2006, 45, 694 – 695
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chemistry, spectroscopy, optical, life, schmid, science, werner
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