Who publishes popular science
If it stinks and cracks ...
Facets of Popular Chemistry Literature
introductionChemistry as the study of substances and the transformation of substances is concerned with a definition of the American Chemical Society from 1963 given in the Römpp Chemie Lexikon
1) the chemical elements in free or bound state;
2) the reactions, transformations, transformations and interactions of the chemical elements and their compounds;
3) the determination, control and prediction, interpretation and evaluation (by direct and indirect methods), application and mechanisms of the processes listed under 2);
4) the basic phenomena and forces of nature with regard to their application to reactions, extractions, combinations, processes, additions, syntheses, decompositions, markings and analyzes. (1)
More popular and memorable than this complex definition of chemistry in the most important chemistry lexicon are definitions from the student mouth, such as "Physics is when it doesn't work; chemistry is when it cracks and stinks". The following chemistry-related two-line lines are more modern and, unfortunately, more up-to-date:"If chemistry floats in the water bucket, the water will even feel sick or: Better love than nitrogen oxides". (2) This exhibition uses holdings from private collections and the university library of the Technical University of Hamburg-Harburg to show how the popularization of chemistry was manifested in chemical literature. The development of the various varieties of popular chemistry literature is presented in a facet-like manner. The effects that the development of science had on popular chemistry literature should become clear, but social influences should also be touched upon. The given signatures refer to the book locations in the university library.
Popular literature and scienceThe causes and driving forces for the emergence of popular scientific forms of literature can be found in the Age of Enlightenment, in the 18th century. (3) In the course of the 19th century, the importance of science and technology increased considerably, and with it that of chemistry and that of the developing chemical industry. As a result of this introduction of science and technology into everyday life, the demand for information about them has increased (curiosity). In addition to providing information about research results, popularization also served and serves to publicly justify science and technology. (4)
While popular science could still be at the height of parallel research in the 18th century, the gap between science and popular science grew in the 19th and 20th centuries and thus also reflected the gap between science and the public.
Many causes contribute to this sad state of affairs. To some extent, paradoxically, the actual separation of science and culture is due to the introduction of scientific training. Science has lost its amateur status, so to speak, and with it a large part of the public interest. Nobody needs to think about scientific matters; there are always people who understand something about it. The rapid development of natural science and the variety of scientific discoveries have a confusing effect on the general public; It is supported by the specialization of the natural scientists themselves and that fairy tale that increasingly believes that the time is long gone when every thinking person can successfully grasp more than a small fraction of human knowledge, let alone claim to have an overview. Indeed, this belief only reflects the fact that the methods of exposition and exchange in science have not kept pace with the advance of discoveries. A well thought-out system of scientific publication ... should enable everyone to get a general picture of the entire field of natural science, which is at the same time so detailed that he can grasp the significance of developments in each individual sub-area. At the moment this is opposed by the inadmissibility of scientific terminology and the anarchy in the field of scientific publications. "(5)
These lines, published in 1939, are still relevant today. (6) Bernal did not believe that the popular scientific literature of his time could contribute to the dissemination of scientific knowledge if he wrote:
By far the worst are popular science books. They include boring and generally extensive compendia of knowledge, which are probably published for the sake of the profit they bring to the publisher, compilations of the latest work, completely misunderstood and horribly distorted by scientific amateurs, and finally wise speeches by prominence in the field as bestsellers . "(7)
Despite these negative statements regarding popular scientific literature, we have to agree with Bernal when he remarks:
"Science can be presented in its popular form without losing its accuracy; it will become significantly more important when it is related to common human needs and aspirations." (8th)
Beginnings of popular chemistry literatureAn early example of popular chemistry is Mistress Marcet's "Conservations of chemistry".
Conversations about chemistry, in which the beginnings of this useful science are explained in a generally understandable manner / after the 13th engl. Ed. by Friedlieb F. Runge.
Berlin: Sander, 1839.
Reprint: Weinheim: Verlag Chemie, 1982.
Call number: 1402-5385
In the form of a "salon talk", a knowing Mrs. B. introduces two young girls, Emily and Caroline, to chemistry. The bookbinder's apprentice Michäl Faraday, later a famous physicist and chemist, was introduced to chemistry through this book. He writes:
I joined a bookseller and bookbinder's business at the age of thirteen, in 1804, and stayed there for eight years, most of the time I was wrapping books. It was these books that I read in the hours after my work that led me to my science ... If I questioned Mrs. Marcet's book through as little experiments as I could lead to means to test it, and found it true to the facts, as I could understand them, then I felt that I had found hold on an anchor in chemical knowledge ... (9)
In addition to the form of dialogue, the form of letters and the narrative form important varieties of popular literature that have survived into our century. (10)
Liebig's "Chemical Letters" first appeared as an article in the Augsburger Allgemeine Zeitung:
Justus von Liebig:
Chemical letters. Cheap (5th) edition.
Leipzig, Heidelberg: Winter, 1865.
Friedrich Wöhler writes about these letters named in the English translation "Familiar Letters":
Never before has the world been shown more clearly what chemistry is, in what connection it stands with the physiological processes in living nature, in what connection with medicine, agriculture, industry and trade. To have set out these relationships so clearly that a child can understand them is sufficient in itself to mark this work as a classical one. (11)
The form of dialogue in popular chemistry literature can still be found in the following two works, dialogue between teacher and student in:
The school of chemistry: first introduction to chemistry for everyone. 2nd ed.
Braunschweig: Vieweg, 1910.
between layman and professor in:
Berlin-Schöneberg: Oestergaard, undated
As an example of the form of the narrative in popular chemistry literature, the novel "Anilin" by A. Schenzinger should be mentioned, which was reprinted many times during the Nazi era because it glorified the deeds of German scientists.
If popular science is initially aimed at educated adults, in the second half of the 19th century children and adolescents are added as contact persons. B. in Michael Faraday's "Natural History of a Candle", arose from Christmas lectures for the youth in December 1860 and January 1861. These, in the original "Lectures on the Chemical History of a Candle", describe the development of a candle and deal with the fundamental findings of the Chemistry.
Natural history of a candle. 2nd ed.
Bad Salzdetfurth: Franzbecker, 1980.
Call number: 1404-5886
The development of chemistry and the chemical industry in the course of the industrial revolution led to a flood of popular chemistry publications in the second half of the last century and at the beginning of this century. Many books are the result of lectures at adult education centers, for example.
In the series of publications that were inexpensive at the time, such as "Sammlung Göschen" and "Aus Natur und Geisteswelt", the many chemical titles show that there was keen interest in chemistry.
- Josef Klein:
Chemistry: inorganic part. 2nd ed.
Leipzig: Göschen, 1899.
(Göschen Collection; 37)
- Reinhart Blochmann:
Air, water, light and heat: ten lectures in the field of experimental chemistry. 4th edition.
Leipzig, Berlin: Teubner, 1914.
(From nature and the spiritual world; 5)
- Eugen J. Rabinowitsch:
Basic concepts of chemistry.
Berlin and others: deGruyter, 1930.
(Göschen Collection; 804)
Forms of Popular Chemistry LiteratureIn terms of content, popular chemistry literature can be divided into 3 categories:
Chemistry for beginnersThese introductions are aimed at children or adults and provide an introduction to specialist science. Their content structure is often based on the structure of the subject itself, but initially also on the "old elements of fire, water, air and earth".
Basic concepts of chemistry.
Leipzig: Thomas, 1911.
The development of physical chemistry, often referred to as general chemistry, characterizes a series of "Introductions to Chemical Science" after 1890, the content of which is based on the technical structure of physical chemistry:
- Walther Löb:
Introduction to Chemical Science.
Leipzig: Teubner, 1909.
(From nature and the spiritual world; 264)
- B. Bavink:
Introduction to general chemistry.
Leipzig, Berlin: Teubner, 1917.
(From nature and the spiritual world; 582)
- Paul Koethener:
From the chemistry of the intangible.
Osterwieck: Zickfeldt, undated
- Wilhelm Ostwald:
The mill of life: physico-chemical foundations of life processes.
Leipzig: Thomas, 1911.
Chemistry in everyday lifeIn Berne's sense (12), this second form of popular chemistry literature tries to relate chemistry and the world in which we live. The development in terms of time and content can be described in this form using the metaphor "From fascination to environmental problem". While the penetration of everyday life through chemistry was in the foreground in early presentations, today the negative effects of chemistry dominate the media and also the popular chemistry literature. Titles such as "Chemistry in the closet" and "Chemistry in the office" are mentioned here.
The book of inventions, trades and industries / ed. F. Reuleaux. 8th ed.
Volume 5: The Chemistry of Daily Life.
Leipzig, Berlin: Spamer, 1891.
Call number: 2501-1508
In allegories to the title, chemistry is still portrayed as a goddess, also in Volume 4: The chemical treatment of raw materials. Like this one, many titles at the turn of the century emphasize the economic importance of chemistry:
The book of inventions, trades and industries / ed. F. Reuleaux. 8th ed.
Volume 4: The chemical treatment of raw materials.
Leipzig, Berlin: Spamer, 1890.
Call number: 2501-1498
Independence from nature.
Leipzig: Thomas, (approx. 1914).
Popular literature on the subject of "chemistry as an environmental problem" can be found in abundance in the university library of the TU Hamburg-Harburg. Here are some examples:
- Everything you always wanted to know about environmental chemicals.
Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1991.
Call number: 1406-383
- Günter Vollmer, Manfred Franz:
Chemistry in hobby and profession.
Munich: German paperback publishing house, 1991.
Call number: 1406-691
- Andreas Heintz, Guido Reinhardt:
Chemistry and the environment. 2nd ed.
Braunschweig: Vieweg, 1991.
- Claudia Fischer, Reinold Fischer:
Chemistry in the office.
Reinbek: Rowohlt, 1988.
Call number: 2466-7788
- Chemistry in the workplace: dangerous substances, occupational diseases and ways out.
Reinbek: Rowohlt, 1987.
Call number: 1403-7467
Experiment booksExperiment books can look back on a long tradition. The chemist and Nobel Prize winner Wilhelm Ostwald (1853-1932) writes in his autobiography:
This time luck wanted me particularly well, because I got a copy of the "School of Chemistry" from Stöckhardt, the deserved agricultural chemist. It was very torn and consisted only of the falling apart leaves. But I soon learned to cherish and care for it as the greatest treasure that had fallen into my hands by then. Because this school of chemistry turned out to be a teaching masterpiece ... ... Stöckhardt met my longing to do all the beautiful things I read about myself. (14)Presumably for this reason, Ostwald gave his own popular Introduction to Chemistry the same title.
Julius Adolph Stöckhardt:
School of chemistry: or first lesson in chemistry, visualized through simple experiments. 15th ed.
Braunschweig: Vieweg, 1868.
In the foreword of his book, Stöckhardt described the "experiment as the main thing". The experiments were selected according to the following principles:
- The experiments must be simple and safe.
- The experiments must form the basis, the framework for the theory.
- The experiments have to be done with known bodies and explain known phenomena.
- The experiments must rise in a natural order from the known to the unknown.
Chemical experiment book: practical introduction to the study of chemistry based on easily executable experiments. 29th ed.
Stuttgart and others: Union Dt. Verlagsges., 1913.
Erich Grosse, Christian Weissmantel:
Experiencing chemistry for yourself: the chemistry experiment book. 4th ed.
Leipzig and others: Urania-Verl., 1982.
Popular chemistry literature in its timeChemistry appeared more and more frequently in people's everyday lives. In daily newspapers in particular, many chemical-related reports were difficult to understand for laypeople, which was the reason for the publication of popular chemistry books as early as the 1920s.
Robert Wizinger writes in the foreword in his "Chemische [n] Chats":
"Above all, research areas and practical questions are reported here, about which short notes always appear in the daily newspapers and illustrated papers."
So the subtitle of this book is a "child of its time".
Chemical chats: about gas wars, atomic destruction, vitamins and other contemporary problems.
Bonn: Verlag der Buchgemeinde, 1934.
A collection of popular essays that appeared after the Second World War had a clear national educational and political purpose.
Science lifts the veil: on the deeds of British researchers.
Berlin: Arkaverlag, 1944.
This book contains popular essays by eminent British scientists such as chemists Robert Robinson, James Kendall, John D. Bernal, physicists William and Lawrence Bragg, and others had mainly heard of the deeds of German scientists. For example, the history of chemistry by Paul Walden, published in 1944, was "in brief a story corresponding to the national achievements of German chemistry". Paul Walden:
Three millennia of chemistry.
Berlin: Limpert, 1944.
Chemistry on the way into the third millennium.
Leipzig: Chemistry, 1979
This book, published in the GDR, is borne by a strong optimism about progress and, from today's point of view, clearly ideological passages. For the authors, the extensive environmental protection measures of the USSR "convincingly demonstrate the superiority of socialism in this area". On the other hand, in "Knaur's Book of Modern Chemistry" there were already more differentiated views on the subject of "chemistry and the environment" in 1971, when chemistry was referred to in the last chapter as "science with a Janus head".
Knaur's book of modern chemistry. License issue.
Stuttgart: German Book Association, 1971
Chemistry historyHistorical representations of a science always contributed to its popularization. In addition, historical references are particularly suitable for providing an insight into economic and technological relationships. By presenting their development from simple beginnings, even more complicated scientific facts can often be made understandable. At the same time, connections with technological, economic, social, political or ideological developments that create a connection between science, technology and society become clear. For example, the aim of James B. Conant's book is "to convey a greater degree of understanding of the nature of the natural sciences through a thorough study of relatively few historical examples of scientific developments." (P.34)
James B. Conant:
Science made understandable.
Berlin: Weiss, 1949.
Examples of popular chemistry stories are the following works:
- Charles-Albert Reichen:
History of chemistry.
Lausanne: Rencontre and Erik Nitsche, 1964.
Call number: 2700-5703
- Paul Walden:
History of chemistry. 2nd ed.
Bonn: Athenaeum, 1950.
Call number: 2486-7902
- Otto Krätz:
Fascination with chemistry: 7,000 years of teaching about substances and processes.
Munich: Callwey, 1990.
Call number: 3415-9781
Historical chemical experiments: embedded in the background of three centuries.
Cologne: Aulis, 1987
Call number: 2459-3771
The Deutsches Museum in Munich also communicates chemistry primarily through historical references.
German Museum of Masterpieces of Science and Technology / ed. Otto Mayr.
Munich: Beck, 1990.
Call number: 2701-0170
A more recent example of the history of chemistry is the book by Karl-Otto Henseling, who for the first time combines the history of chemistry and the history of pollution and environmental protection.
A planet is being poisoned: the triumphant advance of chemistry: history of an undesirable development.
Reinbek near Hamburg: Rowohlt, 1992.
Call number: 1407-1368
school booksWith the introduction of the natural science subjects into the canon of general education schools in the second half of the last century, books on chemistry were also increasingly required and thus contributed to their dissemination.
Basics of chemistry and mineralogy. 7th ed.
Hamburg: Voss, 1899.
"The introduction of teaching in the beginnings of the natural sciences has now become a necessity in elementary schools in all countries."
writes the English chemist H. E.Roscoe in his elementary chemistry book. This arose from lectures entitled "Science lectures for the people" in the winter of 1866/67. More than 4,000 people attended the 13 lectures, with an entry fee of 1 penny per lecture, which was very expensive for the time. (15)
Henry E. Roscoe:
Chemistry. German edition by F. Rose. 2nd ed.
Strasbourg: Trübner, 1878.
Roscoe was instrumental in the further development and dissemination of spectral analysis.
The fact that the development of spectral analysis by Robert W. Bunsen and Gustav R. Kirchhoff quickly found its way into school lessons in 1859 is shown by many popular chemistry books of the time in which spectral tables are shown. Even today, with its further developments, spectroscopy is an important analytical method. In contrast, the soldering tube lost its importance as an important analytical instrument of the 19th century in the 20th century, but is celebrating an unexpected comeback in a modern school book (p.41):
Johann Weninger, Helga Pfundt:
Fabrics and fabric transformations. Part 1: A path to the atomic hypothesis: information book for schoolchildren.
Kiel: IPN, 1979.
Chemical industryA special kind of popular chemistry literature is represented by the various publications of the chemical industry, which were used and still serve for image maintenance, advertising and self-portrayal.
- Ernst Bäumler:
A century of chemistry.
Düsseldorf: Econ, 1963.
Call number: 2486-7915
- In the realm of chemistry
Düsseldorf, Vienna: Econ, 1965.
Call number: 3414-1414
- Werner Free Life:
Growing through change: the path of Wacker-Chemie 1914-1964.
Wiesbaden: Verl. For business journalism, 1964.
Call number: 3414-1391
- Erich Verg:
Leverkusen: Bayer, 1988.
Call number: 3413-0014
Chemistry in LiteratureThe head of the Education Department at the Deutsches Museum, Otto Krätz, has devoted several publications to the subject of chemistry in literature. He writes:
"It may be painful for a chemist, but it is highly advisable to get used to the fact that, with a few and rare exceptions, it is the fascination of evil that drives a literary man to study chemistry. " (16)
For example, the fact that the title figure of Heinrich Mann's "subject" is a chemist "only serves to underline its negative effect".
The conclusion from Krätz:
"As sad as it may be for us chemists to experience chemistry in all its variants of crime and science fiction literature as the filthy servant of evil, ultimately only the knowledge that the American (more precisely: the Canadian) Margaret Atwood put it in her edifying work "Die Poisonmischer" as follows: '... I remember the exhilaration with which we touched and increased it, the feeling of magic and perfection. Mixing with poison is as much fun as baking cakes. Mixing people like poison. Whoever does not understand that will never understand anything ... "(17)
Krätz alludes to something that is sometimes neglected in today's chemistry class: the sensual experience of matter, a topic to which the author Mins Minssen has dedicated himself. From the blurb of his book:
"Chemistry has taken the form of substances: small portions of colorless solutions, a few grains of white crystal powder, you add chalk lines to a hexagon and say: 'This is benzene'. But how big is the difference between a thing and its name .. . The material character, so he [, the author,] claims is to be found in the sensually tangible at least as much as in the chemical. In the course of time, however, chemistry has given up its former indulgence in the material and has become emaciated to abstraction. "
The sensual stuff: dealing with matter.
Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta, 1986.
A sensual experience primarily in the realm of insects, which also mentions scabies, is made possible by the chemistry of nature-identical sex attractants. This theme found its somewhat macabre expression in the novel "Perfume" by Patrick Süsskind. The novel "only revolves around the question of whether it is possible to obtain a human attractant concentrate by chemically processing the skin of young girls, which gives perfumes made from plants an irresistible effect. The raw procurement of the raw material, which is somewhat outside the legal limits, makes this work so attractive out". (18)
The chemist and developer of the anti-baby pill Carl Djerassi also dealt with this subject in passing in his novel "Cantor's Dilemma" (p. 161ff). The most important topic of this novel, however, is the scientific work itself. It is about fraud and falsification in science (19), whereby the characters involved are chemists.
This form of popular scientific literature, called "Science in Fiction" by Djerassi, describes everyday science. Topics that are given special attention are: "Publications, priorities, the order of the authors, the choice of the journal, the collegiality and brutal competition, academic employment, fundraising, the Nobel Prize, schadenfreude" (p. 275) and many more.
Zurich: Haffmans, 1991.
Call number: 2728-2429
Popular chemistry at the university library of the TU Hamburg-HarburgOf course, the focus of a scientific university library cannot be on popular literature. Nevertheless, the holdings of the TUHH also contain popular chemistry titles or chemistry-related non-fiction books to round off the holdings. As the public technical central library of the northern German region, the university library is open to anyone who is particularly interested in science and technology.
W. G. Richards:
Chemistry: problems, topics, questions.
Basel et al .: Birkhäuser, 1989.
Call number: 2703-1078
For fun through chemistry. 2nd ed.
Cologne: Deubner, 1990.
Call number: 2491-593
In the area of magazines, special attention should be given to the popular ones
Chemistry in our time.
as well as the organ of the Deutsches Museum
Culture and technology.
, in which popular articles on chemistry often appear, (20) should be pointed out.
Also interesting is issue 12 of the science magazine of the Technical University of Berlin, which is dedicated to chemistry: Science magazine. TU Berlin.
Issue 12. 1989.
Further popular chemistry literature can be found in the Harburg public library under the signature Uc.
The exhibition catalog on the chemistry holdings of a library rich in old holdings such as the Herzog August Library in Wolfenbüttel is, like this exhibition brochure, popular chemistry literature and should therefore not be missing from this exhibition.
Chemistry between magic and science: ex Bibliotheca Chymica 1500-1800.
Wolfenbüttel: Herzog August Bibliothek, 1991.
Call number: 2709-7368
Copyright: Thomas Hapke
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Remarks(1) Römpp Chemie Lexikon. 9th ed.
Stuttgart: Thieme, 1989-1992.
(2) From Otto Krätz: Historical chemical experiments. Cologne: Aulis, 1987. S.VII.
(3) For a detailed description, see
Dieter Reichelt: On the beginnings of popular science literature in the 18th century: a contribution to the history of literature and science.
Dissertation B, Berlin, Humboldt University, 1989. (4) Klaus-Harro Tiemann: Popular scientific journals of the 19th century. Lecture.
65th Berlin Colloquium on the History of Science on June 18, 1991.
(5) John D. Bernal: The Social Function of Science.
Cologne: Pahl-Rugenstein, 1986. pp. 108-109. Call number: 2448-3137
(6) With regard to technical languages, see the article by Donald P. Hayes: The growing inaccessibility of science. Nature 356 (1992) pp. 739-740.
See also Gero von Randow: Incomprehensible Science. The time. 5.6.1992.
(7) Bernal, op. Cit., P. 106
(8) Bernal, op. Cit., P. 306
(9) Quoted from: Otto Paul Krätz: Afterword. To:
Jane Marcet: Conversations about chemistry. Weinheim: Verl. Chemie, 1982. pp. 491-492
(10) Cf. Gunter Lind: Physik im Lehrbuch 1700-1850.
Berlin: Springer, 1992. pp. 30-39. Call number: 2725-391
(11) Friedrich Wöhler to Justus von Liebig, letter of January 27, 1859. Quoted in:
Rudolph, Joachim: Knaur's book of modern chemistry. Munich: Drömersche Verlagsanst. Th Knaur, 1971. Foreword by Manfred Eigen. P. 10
(12) See Bernal, op. Cit., P. 306, note 8.
(13) See also: Interaction 13 (1991) No. 48.
Issue focus: gentle chemistry.
(14) Wilhelm Ostwald: Lifelines. 1st chapter.
Berlin: Klasing, 1926. pp. 43-44
(15) Michael B. Davies: Chemistianity - popularizing chemistry.
Education in chemistry 25 (1988) 2. Page 41-43.
(16) Otto Krätz: Chemistry as reflected in 20th century literature.
Chemistry in Our Time 25 (1991) 44-50. Here: p. 45
(17) Krätz, loc. Cit., P. 49.
(18) Krätz, loc. Cit., P.49.
(19) See also Klaus Roth: The Case of Nobel Prize Laureate David Baltimore.
Message Chem. Tech. Lab. 40 (1992) 303-308.
(20) e.g. Roald Hoffmann, Vivian Torrence: Air, Earth, Water, Fire.
Culture & Technology 1992 issue 3. pp. 35-44
See also the volume: Roald Hoffmann, Vivian Torrence: Chemistry imagined: reflections on science. Washington: Smithsonian Inst. Pr., 1993. Call number: 2746-9857
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