THE fact that Prof. Church's “Laboratory Guide” has reached a fourth edition is a proof that the work has been found useful by that class of students for whom it is specially arranged. Notwithstanding this fact we cannot regard the book as occupying other than a second-rate position in the literature of applied chemistry. The aim of the “Guide” is (I) to place before the student a series of lessons in chemical manipulation in working through which he shall obtain a practical knowledge of “some of the chief truths learnt during the course of lectures on inorganic or mineral chemistry;” (2) to instruct the student in qualitative analysis with especial reference to the analysis of agricultural products; (3) to lay before the more advanced student a number of processes for the quantitative analysis of agricultural substances, food stuffs, manures, &c. The first part of the work comprises a number of fairly well chosen examples in chemical manipulation, preparation of gases, and examination of solid substances. What we should most object to in this portion of the “Guide” is want of method. A few blowpipe experiments are introduced here and there, followed, perhaps, by a short description of one or two rough experiments illustrative of the manufacture of superphosphates; these are succeeded by desultory tests for sugar in milk, by casual semi-quantitative experiments on bread, and so on. To a student without any knowledge of chemistry such a course as that sketched in the first part of the “Guide” may be of use, although we think more care would require to be shown in the selection of experiments; but the book assumes that the student accompanies his practical work by attendance on lectures; surely then the practical course ought, from its very commencement, to be systematic and progressive. The directions given in each lesson are, as a rule, too meagre; without the constant superintendence of a teacher we doubt whether the beginner in practical work could make much progress. In some cases the directions are so vague and inexact as to be positively misleading: witness the method for detecting alum in bread (p. 43). Part II. treating of qualitative analysis has the same failings as Part I.; it is not exact and definite. The author, in his introduction, especially announces that the work is limited in its aim, so that we cannot find fault with him for not including tests for all the metals; but so far as it goes the information given, and the system of teaching pursued, should have been definite, condensed, and such as would train the student in habits of accuracy. No doubt the reactions detailed are true so far as they go; the schemes of analysis are tolerably good, yet there is about it all a slipshod appearance which stamps the work with an unsatisfactory character.
A Manual of Practical Chemistry for Colleges and Schools. Specially Arranged for Agricultural Students.
By Arthur Herbert Church, Professor of Chemistry in the Agricultural College, Cirencester. Fourth Edition, revised. (London: John Van Voorst, 1877.)
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A Manual of Practical Chemistry for Colleges and Schools. Specially Arranged for Agricultural Students.. Nature 16, 160 (1877) doi:10.1038/016160a0