Chemistry Imagined: Reflections on Science

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In Chemistry Imagined, Nobel laureate Roald Hoffmann, in a unique collaboration with artist Vivian Torrence, reveals the creative and humanistic sparks that drive science in general and chemistry in particular. A series of thirty field-color painted collages paired with short essays, personal commentary, and poems evokes the magic of this usually inaccessible field, its historical roots, the richness of modern chemical activities, and the mysterious confluences of science and art. Showing the general reader how ...
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Overview

In Chemistry Imagined, Nobel laureate Roald Hoffmann, in a unique collaboration with artist Vivian Torrence, reveals the creative and humanistic sparks that drive science in general and chemistry in particular. A series of thirty field-color painted collages paired with short essays, personal commentary, and poems evokes the magic of this usually inaccessible field, its historical roots, the richness of modern chemical activities, and the mysterious confluences of science and art. Showing the general reader how science permeates daily life, Hoffmann stresses the social, cultural, literary, and psychological contexts of chemistry. With delicate, surreal images, Torrence explores the highly visual nature and the intellectual essence of chemistry, the way chemists think, and the way they formulate their questions. Chemistry Imagined discusses chemical discoveries, processes, and personalities in an unusually humanistic manner. Perusing the contents, a reader finds the first drafts of the periodic table of elements likened to revisions of a William Blake poem, the chemical reasons behind the success of Chinese folk medicine, a poem about scanning tunneling microscopy, similarities between molecules and musical instruments, and a meditation on why it is that scientists supposediy "discover" but artists "create." The general public, along with scientists and artists, will find that this celebration of how molecular science fits into world culture is surprising, compelling, and poignantly beautiful. Torrence's provocative images and Hoffmann's perceptions of modern and ancient chemistry shape an illuminating collage of a central science.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A Nobel Laureate in chemistry, Hoffman assembles brief essays, word portraits of chemists and prose poems to celebrate the wonder he unceasingly finds in his field. Torrence's accompanying painted collages are less persuasive. As in his earlier collections, including Gaps and Verges , Hoffman's inspiration comes from the most fundamental of phenomena--``the science of molecules.'' But it is the teaching power of the written word, not the double carbon bond, that dominates here, as Hoffman's short pieces of prose leave the reader craving his fuller treatment of more complex topics. Difficult though it may be to get at the fine, hard truth of a crystal lattice from a poem, the impact of Hoffman's effort here suggests that the curiosity-squashing damage wrought by rote drills of the periodic table could be redeemed by the sense of awe and far-reaching appreciation embraced in these writings. (May)
Library Journal
``Chemistry is the science of molecules and their transformations,'' claims Noble Laureate Hoffmann, where one is able to know without seeing. Yet after reading this short collection of short essays and poems, the mind's eye will come away with sharp images of chemistry's historical roots as well as its mysteries and utilities. Hoffmann's topics range from Chinese folk medicine to scanning tunneling microscopy, from alchemy to polymer chemistry, and more. Couple this with a series of full-color collages by artist Torrence, and you will find a rich blend of science and art. Intelligently written for the general reader, this popularization of a usually inaccessible subject is recommended for public libraries.-- Nancy Chipman-Shlaes, Governors State Univ. Lib., University Park, Ill.
School Library Journal
YA-An unusual, imaginative blending of scientific concepts with artistic illustrations, interesting discussions, and creative poetry. Hoffmann, a Nobel laureate, and Torrence, a visual artist, combine efforts to show the importance of chemistry in daily life. The drawings are surrealistic, thought-provoking, and appropriately placed. The book will be a wonderful resource for advanced students and for teachers, particularly with the increased emphasis on writing across the curricula. The lack of an index will require readers to garner the topics from the broad listing in the table of contents. A well-written, entertaining, and enjoyable book that presents chemistry from an entirely different perspective.-Donna West, W.T. Woodson High School, Fairfax, VA
Booknews
Beautifully produced. Intended for non-scientists. The focus in this melding of science and art is on the social, cultural, literary, and psychological context of chemistry. Hoffman (Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 1981) provides essays, personal commentary, and poems; artist Torrence has prepared intriguing collages to accompany the text. Alas, no index. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781560985396
  • Publisher: Smithsonian Institution Press
  • Publication date: 2/17/1995
  • Edition description: REISSUE
  • Pages: 168
  • Product dimensions: 8.00 (w) x 10.00 (h) x 0.44 (d)

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