From Atoms to Molecules: Studies in the History of Chemistry from the 19th Century, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

From Atoms to Molecules

Studies in the History of Chemistry from the 19th Century, 1st Edition

By Colin A. Russell


342 pages

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Hardback: 9780754668558
pub: 2010-02-28

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The focus of this volume by Professor Russell is the history of organic chemistry, which arose improbably out of early speculations about the construction of chemical compounds, and in particular their electrochemical nature. The rise of electrochemistry and the work of Berzelius were critical in this regard, and receive much attention in the first few chapters in this book. Aspects of the contributions of Frankland (fully explored elsewhere) and those of Kekulê and Hofmann are considered, together with the miscellaneous functions of organic synthesis and the origins of conformational analysis. Questions of chemical organisation are germane to the whole sequence of events and are briefly summarized before the whole last hundred years of organic chemistry are placed in historical perspective.


'… historians will find useful insights into the social and cultural world of chemists in Britain and Germany.' Metascience

Table of Contents

Contents: Preface; 'Rude and disgraceful beginnings': a view of the history of chemistry from the 19th century; The electrochemical theory of Sir Humphry Davy - I: the voltaic pile and electrolysis; II: Electrical interpretations of chemistry; II: The evidence of the Royal Institution manuscripts; The electrochemical theory of Berzelius - I: origins of the theory; II: An electrochemical view of matter; Berzelius and the development of the atomic theory; Introduction to Essai sur la Théorie des Proportions Chimiques et sur l'influence Chimique de l'Électricité, by J.J. Berzelius; Chemistry on the edge of Europe: growth and decline in Sweden; The archives of Sir Edward Frankland: resources, problems and methods; Chemical techniques in a pre-electronic age: the remarkable apparatus of Edward Frankland; Kekulé and Frankland: a psychological puzzle?; Early concepts of aromatic substitution; August Wilhelm Hofman, cosmopolitan chemist; The changing role of synthesis in organic chemistry; The origins of conformational analysis; Advances in organic chemistry over the last 100 years; Chemical bonds 1841-1991: 150 years of the British chemical community; Index.

About the Author

Professor Colin A. Russell, The Open University and the University of Cambridge. UK

About the Series

Variorum Collected Studies

The first title in the Variorum Collected Studies series was published in 1970. Since then well over 1000 titles have appeared in the series, and it has established a well-earned international reputation for the publication of key research across a whole range of subjects within the fields of history.

The history of the medieval world remains central to the series, with Byzantine studies a particular speciality, but the range of titles extends from Hellenistic philosophy and the history of the Roman empire and early Christianity, through the Renaissance and Reformation, up to the 20th century. Islamic Studies forms another major strand as do the histories of science, technology and medicine.

Each title in the Variorum Collected Studies series brings together for the first time a selection of articles by a leading authority on a particular subject. These studies are reprinted from a vast range of learned journals, Festschrifts and conference proceedings. They make available research that is scattered, even inaccessible in all but the largest and most specialized libraries. With a new introduction and index, and often with new notes and previously unpublished material, they constitute an essential resource. 

For further information about contributing to the series please contact Michael Greenwood at

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / General