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Transforming Matter

Paperback
, 232 pages

13 halftones, 12 line drawings

ISBN:
9780801866104
July 2001
$27.00

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Transforming Matter

A History of Chemistry from Alchemy to the Buckyball

Chemistry explores the way atoms interact, the constitution of the stars, and the human genome. Knowledge of chemistry makes it possible for us to manufacture dyes and antibiotics, metallic alloys, and other materials that contribute to the necessities and luxuries of human life. In Transforming Matter, noted historian Trevor H. Levere emphasizes that understanding the history of these developments helps us to appreciate the achievements of generations of chemists.

Levere examines the dynamic rise of chemistry from the study of alchemy in the seventeenth century to the development of organic and inorganic chemistry in the age of government-funded research and corporate giants. In the past two centuries, he points out, the number of known elements has quadrupled. And because of synthesis, chemistry has increasingly become a science that creates much of what it studies.

Throughout the book, Levere follows a number of recurring themes: theories about the elements, the need for classification, the status of chemical science, and the relationship between practice and theory. He illustrates these themes by concentrating on some of chemistry's most influential and innovative practitioners. Transforming Matter provides an accessible and clearly written introduction to the history of chemistry, telling the story of how the discipline has developed over the years.

Trevor H. Levere is a professor in the Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology at the University of Toronto. He is the editor of Annals of Science and the author of many books, including Affinity and Matter: Elements of Chemical Philosophy 1800-1865 and Chemists and Chemistry in Science and Society, 1750-1878.

"Levere's book is commendably clear, with good explanations of numerous concepts... It is an excellent textbook for practicing chemists and chemistry students."

"Excellent... In Trevor H. Levere's book Transforming Matter, this topic [when did chemistry become a science] is explained with precision and clarity, alongside other aspects of the history of chemistry... Most suitable for readers studying the history of chemistry as part of their education... [though] the general reader with more than a passing interest in the development of modern science would find much of interest."

"What makes this book enjoyable is its personal tone. The reader feels as if he or she was listening to a course of lectures each of which has its own little dramaturgy and message... Transforming Matter is a book science students will enjoy. It gives a good sense of the intellectual fascination involved in man's open-ended quest for understanding the material world and its inner structures. And it may also encourage to taste some of the fascination the history of chemistry has to offer."

" Transforming Matter is targeted at newcomers to the subject, whether or not they have a background in the sciences. Formulas and technicalities are kept to a minimum, and it says much of Levere's skill as a popularizer that despite these restrictions, he is able to give lucid and accurate accounts of the principles of thermodynamics in an excellent chapter on the rise of physical chemistry. The book is interspersed with aptly chosen black-and-white illustrations accompanied by boxed texts that complement the main narrative... Instructors who want a readable, reliable, and general introductory text for arts and sciences students... will find this beautifully crafted textbook highly commendable."

"Levere's book is commendably up to date, and amazingly full of information... His book can be recommended for students as readable and reliable. It is expository, didactic and clear."

" An excellent short history of chemistry."

"A solid treatment of the complex process by which chemistry has evolved."

" Transforming Matter is an excellent introduction to the personalities and philosophies behind the development of chemistry... an ideal source for those outside the profession needing or wanting some grounding in the evolution of chemistry."

"An up-to-date and easy to read history of chemistry, particularly useful for undergraduate survey courses. Levere deploys several (often divergent) schools of historical thought, thus exposing students to the varied contributions of each to our understanding, but without ever bogging down in technical matters that would not be meaningful to beginning students."