What is Chemistry?

Overview

Most people remember chemistry from their schooldays as a subject that was largely incomprehensible. For many the topic was seen as being fact-rich but understanding-poor, smelly, and so far removed from the real world of events and pleasures that there seemed little point, except for the most introverted, in coming to terms with its grubby concepts, spells, recipes, and rules.

Peter Atkins wants to change all that. In What is Chemistry? he encourages us to look at chemistry ...

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What is Chemistry?

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Overview

Most people remember chemistry from their schooldays as a subject that was largely incomprehensible. For many the topic was seen as being fact-rich but understanding-poor, smelly, and so far removed from the real world of events and pleasures that there seemed little point, except for the most introverted, in coming to terms with its grubby concepts, spells, recipes, and rules.

Peter Atkins wants to change all that. In What is Chemistry? he encourages us to look at chemistry anew, through a chemist's eyes, to understand its central concepts and to see how it contributes not only towards our material comfort, but also to human culture. He shows how chemistry provides the infrastructure of our world, through the chemical industry, the fuels of heating, power generation, and transport, as well as the fabrics of our clothing and furnishings.

By considering the remarkable achievements that chemistry has made, and examining its place between both physics and biology, Atkins presents a fascinating, clear, and rigorous exploration of the world of chemistry — its structure, core concepts, and contributions.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
11/15/2013
How can you explain the significance and importance of chemistry to a general audience in just over 110 pages? Prolific textbook author Atkins (chemistry, Univ. of Oxford; The Laws of Thermodynamics: A Very Short Introduction) uses a different approach than some similar guides. He presents the world of chemistry through a chemist's eyes rather than re-creating it for the layperson. This scheme presents a logical progression from the simplest elements to energy, reactions, techniques of chemistry, achievements, and applications. Other introductory guides base their discussion on specific topics, e.g., Philip Ball's The Ingredients: A Guided Tour of the Elements, Eric Scerri's The Periodic Table: A Very Short Introduction, and Atkins's own Reactions: The Private Life of Atoms. The author's skill as a textbook writer allows the material to flow smoothly from one topic to the next and succeeds in making the breadth and depth of chemistry approachable to a nonscientist. VERDICT This text would be an excellent supplement in an undergraduate general chemistry or introductory science course and is a good selection for motivated readers interested in chemistry.—Elizabeth A. Brown, Binghamton Univ. Libs., NY
Kirkus Reviews
2013-09-15
Atkins (Chemistry/Univ. of Oxford; Reactions: The Private Life of Atoms, 2011, etc.) presents a rounded view of chemistry in hopes of dispelling the noxious fumes produced by the high school classroom. Here is chemistry as seen through chemists' eyes, taking into account the fundamental chemical properties and processes that play in the backs of their minds while they work. The author sings the praises of the science while intoning chemistry's dark side, for to abjure chemistry--as if that was possible--would be an express lane back to the Stone Age: "no metals, no fuels except wood, no fabrics except pelts, no medicines except herbs, no methods of computation except with your fingers, and very little food." In a voice at once owlish and inviting, Atkins scans the periodic table to introduce the structure of atoms, the compounds of carbon and the many other elements. He is happy to drop little bombs along the way--"That [quantum mechanics] remains largely incomprehensible is admittedly an irksome deficiency"--and even in those moments when readers may feel like he has left them dangling ("Broadly speaking, there are energy advantages in an atom acquiring a complete cloud layer"), Atkins eventually circles back to underscore his points. With light-handed skill, the author ushers chemistry into the everyday world, from the fabrication of dyestuffs to the potential heat in firewood to why breathing carbon monoxide results in suffocation. Atkins also wisely addresses popular concerns about chemistry, including the construction of the tools of war and the environmental costs associated with the chemical industry, which in turn leads to a discussion of the prospects for a "green" chemistry and the responsibilities that attend "this Merlin-like ability to conjure with atoms." A concise introduction to chemistry that has an alchemy all its own.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199683987
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 11/1/2013
  • Pages: 144
  • Sales rank: 517,792
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 7.80 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Peter Atkins is Fellow of Lincoln College, University of Oxford. He is the author of almost 60 books, which include the world-renowned textbook Physical Chemistry (published in its ninth edition in November 2009). His other textbooks include Inorganic Chemistry: Chemical Principles and Molecular Quantum Mechanics. He has also written a number of books for a general readership, including Galileo's Finger: The Ten Great Ideas of Science, The Periodic Kingdom, Molecules, and The Laws of Thermodynamics: A Very Short Introduction. He has been a visiting professor in France, Israel, New Zealand, and China, and continues to lecture widely throughout the world.

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Table of Contents

Preface
1. Its origins, scope, and organization
2. Its principles: atoms and molecules
3. Its principles: energy and entropy
4. Its reactions
5. Its techniques
6. Its achievements
7. Its future
Glossary
Index

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