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Notes on the Practical Chemistry of the Non-Metallic Elements and their Compounds

Nature volume 13, page 446 | Download Citation



THIS is a handbook on the Practical Chemistry of the Non-metallic Elements, designed to meet the requirements of pupils of Mechanics' Institutions, and of Science Classes of a similar kind. The true man of science welcomes every worthy means of spreading scientific truth, and does everything in his power to propagate that truth. He will regard with a jealous eye each work brought forward with a view of extending a knowledge of the sciences; and with a work intended for the use of a class whose opportunities of gaining knowledge are very limited, his scrutiny will be all the closer. A book written for the information of such should be couched in the simplest language, and the sense conveyed should be at once clear and comprehensive. In these respects Dr. Procter's little work cannot be termed a success. To use no stronger expression his language is frequently very vague. For example, on page 14 the author in speaking of “Chemical Affinity” says: “hence, in order that this force may be exercised by the particles coming within the sphere of each others' attraction, the substances must be in the state of liquid or gas.” There can be but one way of understanding the latter part of this quotation, viz., that no chemical action can take place, unless the materials taking part in that action are each and all of them in a liquid or gaseous state. Dr. Procter is scarcely less happy in his definitions of bases, acids, &c. He says: “An acid is a compound of an electro-negative radical with hydrogen, which hydrogen it can exchange for a metal or basylous radical, and it is therefore replacable.” Again, “A salt is a compound produced by the action of a base upon an acid with the displacement of the hydrogen of the latter.” How can such definitions convey to the minds of pupils proper ideas of the true natures of acids and bases? Such explanations would not inappropriately be termed indefinitions. Chapters are devoted to chemical calculations, and chemical manipulations, and here doubtless the readers will find many useful hints for their guidance in the preparation of their apparatus, &c. In the body of the book Dr. Procter treats of the non-metallic elements, giving the ordinary methods of preparing them, and their compounds, and illustrating the characteristics of each by interesting and instructive experiments. A few pages devoted to the chemistry of water, qualitative analysis of gases, and the preparation of ordinary reagents, complete a book, which, designed for a good purpose, and containing much useful information, at the same time shows want of care in compilation, and also lacks lucidity. Printer's errors are much too numerous.

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