Some Fundamental Problems in Chemistry—Old and New


THOSE chemists whose memories can carry them back for a period of about half a century will have experienced several phases in the development of the science which, at their respective periods, were regarded as marking; a transition from an older to a newer chemistry. The writer of this notice began his reading when water was HO and so forth. Then came the “new notation” resulting from the proper recognition of Avogadro's law, the doubling of certain atomic weights, and the reconstruction of our formulæ. This was the “new chemistry” of that period. Next arose the more complete elaboration of the conception of constitution or structure based on valency, due to Frankland and Kekulé, and we had a yet newer chemistry—a development which was so extraordinarily prolific in the way of results that chemists were inclined to hug themselves into the belief that they had come to close quarters with the inner mechanism of molecular structure, and the very weaknesses of the theory, which had shown signs of breaking down in certain directions, afterwards became cornerstones of strength in the light of the brilliant hypothesis of van't Hoff and Le Bel, which inaugurated the then new science of stereochemistry. Moreover, about the same period when structural chemistry was undergoing these developments, attention was being more systematically concentrated upon the relationships of the chemical elements among themselves, these studies culminating in that periodic classification associated with the names of Newlands, Mendeléeff, and Lothar Meyer. From that great generalisation arose a still newer chemistry which systematised the whole treatment of the science, both theoretically and practically, and dominates our present teaching. Another “new” chemistry must be added to this record—the application of purely physical methods to the study of chemical phenomena resulting in the foundation of “physical chemistry” as a distinct subject.

Some Fundamental Problems in ChemistryOld and New.

By Prof. E. A. Letts. Pp. xiii + 235 + plates. (London: Constable and Co., Ltd.) Price 7s. 6d. net.

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MELDOLA, R. Some Fundamental Problems in Chemistry—Old and New . Nature 93, 291–293 (1914).

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