The Chemical Century : Molecular Manipulation and Its Impact on the 20th Century book cover
1st Edition

The Chemical Century
Molecular Manipulation and Its Impact on the 20th Century

ISBN 9781774636183
Published March 31, 2021 by Apple Academic Press
770 Pages 9 Color & 108 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

This fascinating new volume provides a comprehensive yet concise overview of the chemical aspects of some of the major innovations and changes that occurred during the 20th century, relating chemical structures and properties to real-life applications. Developed for a course taught by the author for several years at UVA, the author covers the important and consequential developments in chemistry and explains their everyday, real-life applications. These include such topics as consumer products, fossil fuel use, polymers, agriculture, food production, nutrition, explosives, and drugs. The section Molecular Biology and Its Applications includes examples of the application of biotechnology and genetic engineering.


Table of Contents


Explosives and Propellants: Power to Breach Mountains, Wage War, and Visit the Moon

Structures of Explosives and Propellants

Production of Explosives and Propellants

Military Applications of Explosives and Propellants

Rocket Engines for Space Exploration

Other Uses of Explosives and Propellants

Explosives and Terrorism

Hydrocarbons as Fuels and Petrochemicals: Shaping the Past; Dominating the Present; Complicating the Future

Petroleum Refining and Processing

Alternative Sources of Liquid Fuels


Environmental Consequences of Hydrocarbon Fuel Usage

Economical, Political, and Ethical Aspects of Fossil Fuel Usage


The Chemical Industry: An Overview

Prior to WWI

From WWI to WWII

WWII to 1975

975 –2000

The International Chemical Industry at the End of the Century

Origins of the Pharmaceutical Industry

Halogenated Hydrocarbons: Persistence, Toxicity, and Problems

Volatile Chlorinated Solvents and Intermediates

DDT and Other Persistent Halogenated Compounds

Chlorofluorocarbons and Related Compounds

Polymers: Making New Materials

The Nature of Polymers

Chemically Modified Natural Polymers

Synthetic Polymers

Fabrication of Polymers

Flammability of Fibers, Films and Plastics

Recycling of Polymers

Household and Personal Care Products: Cleaning Up and Looking Good

Surfactant Types

Household Cleaning Products

Personal Care Products

Skin Care


Advertising of Household and Personal Care Products

Environmental Effects and Regulation

Silicones: From Contact Lenses to Pavement Sealants

Preparation and Properties of Silicones

Applications of Silicones

Biomedical Applications of Silicones

Environmental Issues


Chemistry and Agriculture: Helping Feed the World




Environmental and Ecological Effects of Food Production

Chemistry, Food and the Modern Diet: What’s in Food Besides Food?

Some Common Food Ingredients

Sugars and Low-Caloric Sweeteners

Fats and Oils

Coffee Decaffeination

Chemical Basis of Fruit Ripening

Economics and Politics of Food Processing

Examples of Processed Foods

Metabolic Syndrome, Cardiovascular Disease and Type 2 Diabetes

Vitamins and Nutrition

Vitamin Deficiency Diseases and the Discovery of the Vitamins

The Use and Value of Vitamin Supplements

Dietary Supplements

Nutritional Consequences of Food Production and Processing


Drug Discovery, Development, and Distribution

The Origins of Chemotherapy

Beginnings of the Modern Pharmaceutical Industry

Drug Discovery and Development

Regulation, Research, Politics and Public Relations

The Pharmaceutical Industry

Antibiotics: The Battle with the Microbes


Aminoglycosides and Other Anti-Tuberculosis Drugs

Other Classes of Antibiotics

Issues for the Future of Antibiotics

Analgesic, Anti-Inflammatory, Anti-Pyretic, and Anesthetic Drugs: Dealing with Pain, Inflammation, and Fever


Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDS)

Selective Cyclooxygenase-2 Inhibitors (Coxibs)

Acetanilides, Including Phenacetin and Acetaminophen

Other Analgesic and Anti-Pyretic Drugs

Morphine and Related Opiates

Cocaine and Related Structures

General Anesthetics

Antihypertensive Drugs: Controlling Blood Pressure

The Renin-Angiotensin-Aldosterone System

Drugs for Treatment of Hypertension

Steroids: Arthritis, Fertility, Heart Attacks, and Home Run Records

Structure of Steroids

Corticosteroids and Arthritis

Steroids in Fertility Control

Cardiovascular Effects of Steroids

Steroid Analogs in Cancer Treatment

Steroid Abuse in Sports

Endocrine Disruptors; Inadvertent Fertility Modification?

Diabetes and Anti-Diabetic Therapy: Control of Glucose

The Discovery and Clinical Introduction of Insulin

Production and Administration of Insulin

Diagnosis and Characteristics of Diabetes

Drugs Used In Treatment of Type-2 Diabetes

Drugs For Treatment of Neurological and Psychological Conditions

Early History of Psychoactive Drugs


Anti-Epilepsy Drugs

Anti-Psychotic Drugs (Neuroleptics)

Anti-Anxiety Drugs


Use and Abuse of Amphetamine and Its Derivatives

Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia

Social Consequences and Controversies in Treatment of Neurological and Psychological Conditions

Anti-Malarial and Other Anti-Parasitic Drugs

Malaria: Etiology, Pathology, Prevention and Treatment




Lymphatic Filariasis

Other Helminthic Infections


Response to the AIDS Pandemic

Drugs for Treatment of AIDS

Economic Aspects of AIDS Treatment


DNA Structure, Sequencing, Synthesis, and Modification: Making Biology Molecular

Structure of DNA and the Genetic Code

DNA Sequencing

Synthesis of DNA

Manipulation, Modification and Analysis of DNA

Sequencing the Human Genome

Applications of Biotechnology: Biology Doing Chemistry

Examples of Small Molecules Produced by Biotechnology

Biotechnology in Agriculture

Genetically Engineered Products for Medicine


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Richard C. Sundberg, PhD, is a Professor of Chemistry at the University of Virginia and has been teaching for 50 years. He was a Fulbright Scholar (France) in 1978–79, and he was honored as a Distinguished Alumni by the University of Minnesota in 2001. He has published about 100 research papers and five monographs in the area of heterocyclic organic compounds and has directed 25 PhD theses. His past books include Advanced Organic Chemistry (all editions) (co-authored with Francis A. Carey), Springer; Indoles, Best Synthetic Methods, Academic Press, 1996; and The Chemistry of Indoles, Academic Press, 1970.


"Professor Richard Sundberg, who is well known as an author of both a widely used advanced organic chemistry text and two indole chemistry monographs, has now published The Chemical Century for the educated general public. With minimal chemical jargon and few organic chemical structures, Sundberg has woven a fascinating story of chemistry over the past 150 years. From early chemical dyes and explosives, to the structures of DNA and proteins, and to today’s medicines and pesticides, Sundberg covers an array of ubiquitous chemical topics that are regularly featured in news media and on the Internet. Importantly, his book goes far in dissipating ‘chemophobia’—the irrational fear of chemicals that has plagued the general public for decades.The Chemical Century should be on the reading list of anyone interested in learning about chemicals, both good and evil."

—Dr. Gordon W. Gribble, The Dartmouth Professor of Chemistry, Hanover, New Hampshire

"Professor Sundberg is well known as an educator and as co-author of the two-volume, multi-edition Advanced Organic Chemistry, a mainstay in chemistry graduate education for 40 years.  He now has turned his pedagogical talents to the history of mankind from the 1800s until today through the lens of the contributions of chemistry. Readers need little chemical knowledge in order to inhale a sense of chemical research, product development, and commercialization in the 20thcentury.  Sundberg nimbly weaves the themes of power (such as in the form of explosives and fuels), the manufacture of everyday things, food, drug discovery, biotechnology, and molecular biology into a story that we, our parents, and our grandparents have experienced firsthand—mankind’s advances during the past 100 years."

—Jeffrey I. Seeman, Department of Chemistry, University of Richmond¿

"This masterful book relates the impact of chemical discovery and invention on the broad scope of twentieth-century history: upheaval in war, government and society; human and ecological health; industry and commerce; the rise and fall of nations and the quality of everyday human life. Chemical structures and equations provide depth for chemists and serve as illustrations for the more casual reader. The book’s organization and the table of contents make it easy to select particular topics of interest. The Chemical Century is a unique and valuable work: both a clearly written history of the science and a history of the century from a chemical point of view. Derived from classroom lectures at the University of Virginia, this book illustrates Dr. Sundberg’s love of teaching and his never-ending search for causation. Discovery leads to invention. Invention enables discovery as we progressed through the Chemical Century."

— Peter Bukowick, Chief Operating Officer (retired), Alliant Techsystems