6 April 2011 Podcast | Compounds
This week's podcast is about quinine
From the molecular world: a nineteenth century science fantasy
Alan Rocke and Hermann Kopp
2012 | 105pp | £44.99 (PB)
Reviewed by Alan Dronsfield
The premise of the book is a tour of an aerarium (a bit like an aquarium) made up of containers into which one could peer to gain visual insights into the world of atoms and molecules. For instance, early on, Kopp describes the coming together of ‘one-handed’ atoms of hydrogen linking up, hand in hand, to form molecules of H2. It’s not a children’s book, however, and soon we are in deep waters looking at the various theories that, in the recent history, had attempted to explain molecular constitution. Readers are not particularly helped by Kopp’s prolix Germanic writing style with its extra-long sentences containing clause after clause, and his continual allusions to earlier non-scientific literature and all-but-forgotten figures of the past.
Historian Alan Rocke has produced a translation of Kopp’s book, detailed its genesis and reception, and included a potted biography of Kopp himself. By means of some 242 footnotes he guides us through Kopp’s allusions and obscure quotations, though he admits that a few, in the end, defeated him. This curiosity is not really for the general reader, but it will appeal to historians of chemistry with a particular interest into what was going on in our subject in the second half of the 19th century.
Purchase this book at Amazon.co.uk.
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