Academy,  2 (1870–71), 374–77.

Recent Works on Chemistry  [1/3]

John Ferguson


Review, Serial

Publications reviewed:

Frankland 1870 Cooke 1870 Miller 1871 Bloxam 1870


Textbooks, Authorship, Theory, Chemistry, Matter Theory, Force, Nomenclature, Philosophy, Natural History, Industrial Chemistry, Commerce, Universities, Language, Crystallography, Education, Schools, Artisans, Popularization, Metallurgy, Illustration

People mentioned:

Nicolas Lemery , Charles Tomlinson

Publications cited:

Daniell 1839 , Agricola 1530

    Begins by noting that 'Even when completest, a text-book can give but a narrow view of its subject', and adds that 'abstruse or unproved theory [...] is as unwelcome in a text-book of science as the higher mathematics would be to the student who is ignorant of the multiplication table'. The success of text-books also depends 'upon the interest thrown round them by the author's sympathy both with his subject and with his reader', and the books chosen for the present review have been selected for 'their manner or authorship rather than their matter'. (374–75) Describes the recent shift in the views of Edward Frankland 'from contemplation of a shifting about of atoms, incomprehensible in themselves, as the sole aim of chemistry, to a recognition of force as concerned in chemical change'. Criticises Josiah P Cooke for failing to engage properly with the wider issues of chemical philosophy, and instead merely providing 'irrelevant chemical natural history', and observes that what philosophy there is is 'purely atomistic [...] carried out to its furthest verge'. (375) By using 'atomic language' and failing to 'apprehend energy and motion', Cooke, along with the French chemist Alfred J Naquet, belongs 'philosophically to the seventeenth instead of the nineteenth century'. In addition, Cooke's argument is vitiated by his confusion of 'the frequency of occurrence and commercial importance or wide distribution of a substance with its value as evidence for chemical theory'. Notes in passing that 'chemistry in a university curriculum' is largely 'unsuited or unattractive to those engaged in classical or literary studies', and that even 'if chemistry be of little use to the classical scholar, Greek and Latin are indispensable to a chemist'. (376) Draws attention to Longmans' 'series of "Text-Books of Science", now in course of publication, which are intended for use in schools and for the self-instruction of workingmen', and suggests that a truly 'popular science book' ought 'to have good illustrations as substitutes for the objects themselves' (377).

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