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The Case of the Poisonous Socks


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1. Written by a respected science historian and established author 2. A collection of essays about chemists and their discoveries 3. Written with a light style and easy to dip into at leisure 4. Of interest to chemists, teachers, historians and laypeople

Table of Contents

Preface; Part 1: Chemical Futures; 1. The Case of the Poisonous Socks; 2. Taste, Smell and Flavour; 3. Tales of Hofmann; 4. Liebig on Toast; 5. The Future of Research at the Royal Institution (London) and the Smithsonian Institution (Washington); 6. The Future of Chemistry in 1901; 7. The Alchemical Society 1912-1915; Part 2: Organizing Chemistry; 8. Putting the "S" into the "Three R's"; 9. The London Chemical Society; 10. The State of Chemistry in Britain in 1846; 11. The Laboratory Before and After Liebig; 12. The Chemical Origins of Practical Physics; 13. Chemical Algebra; 14. The B Club; 15. Chemistry By Discovery in a Phrase; Part 3: A Cluster of Chemists; 16. Amedeo Avogadro; 17. Creating a Path through the Dark Forest of Organic Chemistry; 18. August KekulU (1829-96): Theoretical Chemist; 19. The Don Quixote of Chemistry: Sir Benjamin Collins Brodie (1817-1880); 20. The Epistle of Henry the Chemist; 21. He Knew He Was Right - Fritz Haber; 22. J. R. Partington (1886-1965): Physical Chemistry in Deed and Word; 23. Henry Crookes, Founder of Crookes Laboratories; 24. A Life of Magic Chemistry; Part 4: Women in Alchemy and Chemistry; 25. Women in Alchemy; 26. Teaching Chemistry to Women; 27. Musical Affinities; 28. Edith Hilda Usherwood (1898-1988) and the Ingold Partnership; Part 5: Chemical Books and Journal; 29. The Fate of Eponymous Chemical Journals; 30. The Lamp of Learning; 31. "The Greatest Work which England has ever Produced": Henry Watts and the Dictionary of Chemistry; 32. Chemistry in the Aquarium; 33. Insurance Chemistry; 34. Math for Chemists; 35. The Chemistry of Pottery; 36. Baker's Dozen; Part 6: Lost to Chemistry; 37. They Also Ran; 38. Who Was Crookes's Musician-Chemist?; 39. The Chemist from Hanwell Asylum; 40. George Du Maurier (1834-96); 41. Sir Stafford Cripps; 42. C. P. Snow as a Physical Chemist; Sources, Acknowledgements and Further Reading; Index

About the Author

William H. Brock is a retired Professor of the History of Science. He read Chemistry at UCL before studying the History of Science at the University of Leicester where he later became a lecturer then a professor. He has published many papers and books including The Fontana History of Chemistry.


'the author displays his considerable scholarship in every line''the book might well serve as a xource of short readings for students to prompt discussion on a variety kof general topics of historical or sociological nature.''these essays are concerned with chemists as individuals, but also with their activities and interactions as a community' * Metascience - Georgette Taylor *
Who could resist a book with a title like that?Written over Bill Brock's career of more than forty years as an historian, they carry an easy authority and are thoroughly accessible.The book is an entertaining read.The Royal Society of Chemistry is to be congratulated for publishing these spirited essays as part of the Year of Chemistry. They deserve and ought to reach a wide public; and will also be a valuable resource for professional historians * Ambix - David Knight *
on the whole I found the tales intriguing and absorbing. enjoyable and enlightening, and often made me chuckle, sometimes to myself and sometimes out loud.anyone with more than a passing interest in chemistry should find it thoroughly enjoyable and perhaps will come away, as I did, remembering that sometimes things can be learned in science by looking to the past, as well as to the future. * Emily Flashman *
'this is the perfect bedside book for any chemist and hopefully for any other scientist with a historical inclination. The essays, all self-contained and mostly very short, are ideal for dipping into.''you're sure to find this book full of delights.' * Philip Ball *
'I found it interesting to read just how much of an influence chemistry has had on our day to day lives, from the clothes we wear to the food we eat'. 'Each chapter is a collection of relatively short and easy to read essays, making it simple to put the book down and pick up again late. My favourite was the story which gives this book its title. It was interesting to read that chemical detective work is not a modern notion and funny to learn about the scientists' views on the colourful undergarments of Victorian society! ''Written in a friendly, flowing format, this book would be appealing to anyone with any interest in the history of chemistry and science in general' * Rebecca Brodie *
"I didn't know that!" was a common and delighted reaction of mine as I read these essays. Readers interested in an idiosyncratic tour of some of the sights in the history of chemistry centered in 19th- and early 20th-century Britain can scarcely expect a more knowledgeable orengaging guide than William Brock. * Carmen Giunta *
This is a delightful book! -- H. E. Pence * CHOICE October 2012 Vol. 50 No. 02 *
Some of the articles explore fascinating chemical sidelights, such as the socks mentioned in the title... -- H. E. Pence * CHOICE October 2012 Vol. 50 No. 02 *
This reviewer especially enjoyed the stories about the development of early teaching techniques for chemistry... -- H. E. Pence * CHOICE October 2012 Vol. 50 No. 02 *
The book truly offers something for almost anyone interested in chemistry. -- H. E. Pence * CHOICE October 2012 Vol. 50 No. 02 *
Summing Up: Highly recommended. -- H. E. Pence * CHOICE October 2012 Vol. 50 No. 02 *
WILLIAM H. BROCK. The Case of the Poisonous Socks: Tales from Cheinistry. London: Royal Society of Chemistry, 2011. 362 pp. $32. One way to provide an audience with welcome relief from data overload is to illustrate lectures with historically relevant tales. As a bonus, this method also enhances the reputation of the lecturer as engaging and well-rounded. Every chemist aspiring to such a reputation should read TheCiJseofthe Poisonous Socks and then keep it as a ready reference. It is, to be sure, decidedly British in flavor and focused on the 19th and early 20th centuries, but that is precisely what makes it such a valuable reference. Science historian William H. Brock sticks to his cholarship in assembling this collection of 42 short essays, and he tells thein in an entertaining.manner that facilitates learning and subsequent retelling. Chapter 1 explains the book's title and provides insight into the development of product safety and worker protection. From there the stories can be accessed in any order and tell fascinating tales of the people who helped develop modern chemistry as well as those who, while educated in chemistry, made their reputations in other fields. My personal favorite is "The Chemist from Hanwell Asylum:' Brock here tells the story of the mid-19th century a1,1thor of two satirical letters who claims to have been driven mad by the lack of standardization in chemical notation at a time when even simple chemical structures, such as water and ammonia, lacked consistent notation. -- Bob Kenworthy * CHEMlCAL HERlTAGE Fall 2012/Winter 2013 *
Science historian William H. Brock sticks to his scholarship in assembling this collection of 42 short essays, and he tells thein in an entertaining.manner that facilitates learning and subsequent retelling. -- Bob Kenworthy * CHEMlCAL HERlTAGE Fall 2012/Winter 2013 *
"The Royal Society of Chemistry consistently publishes some of the best popular literature about chemistry; The Case of the Poisonous Socks is another resource that can enlarge your appreciation for the history of chemistry and enrich your teaching." "Brock writes in a lively and convincing manner about some of the most colorful characters in science..." "Chemists with any interest at all in history will find real nuggets throughout Poisonous Socks." -- Hal Harris * J. Chem. Educ. 2013, 90, 823 831 *
"The present volume consists of 42 essays and reviews, updated and revised..." "While there is a lot of detail in the text,Brock also provides a 'further reading' list for each chapter, and the book is rounded out with an excellent, 22-page index." -- Ian Rae FRACI CChem * Chemistry in Australia, August 2013 *
"The author displays his considerable scholarship in every line and even the shortest pieces are so dense in terms of information as to provide a multitude of 'jumping off points' for further exploration" "The book might well serve as a source of short readings for students to prompt discussion on a variety of general topics of a historical or sociological nature." "The essays certainly do inspire the enquring reader with a desire to know more" "Each essay is itself a mine of glorious nuggets of information, much of which is unreferenced, offering the reader such gems as the sock story mentioned earlier, an entertaining song about sewerage, and the involvement of the Chemist Justus Liebig with the origins of Fray Bentos corned beef and Oxo" -- Georgette Taylor * Metascience *

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