Exploring Chemistry Analysis - Essay

Roy A. Gallant


(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

The title Exploring Chemistry explains the goals of Gallant’s book, and he explores chemistry in a quite enjoyable fashion. First, some of the values of this field to modern (1950’s) society are closely scrutinized. Then, Gallant elaborates on the development of the science of chemistry over the centuries, in ever-accelerating fits and starts. Much is made of the need for both precise thinking and extensive physical experimentation by chemists. In that light, Gallant shows that the beginnings of modern chemistry were not possible until the seventeenth century, when technology reached a minimum state required for further progress. Nevertheless, the contributions of natural philosophers of antiquity, who were hampered by lack of technology, and of alchemists, who sought mostly to make gold, are also shown to be very important.

The description of the fascinating nature of chemistry is aided by the many illustrations that were conceived by Gallant’s artist-collaborator, Lee Ames. Gallant identifies the known elements and describes the discovery of new ones, defines the subatomic particles that make up the atoms of the myriad different kinds of matter, and conceptualizes the needs of society for foods and for many other items. The profession of chemistry is thus shown to be being quite rewarding and very enticing.

Another exciting aspect of the book comes from its many predictions about the future of chemistry, from the perspective of the 1950’s, including advances in the areas of fuel, agricultural, organic, biological, theoretical, and medicinal chemistry. These advances are, like the rest of the book, described simply and in an understandable manner. The hindsight available to readers who now live in the future that Gallant described will probably foster an interest in chemistry for several reasons. The science of chemistry seems to have a predictive quality, because many concepts suggested by the author were actualized. On the other hand, not everything that is conceptualized comes to pass, and a career in chemistry offers the excitement of challenge, potential, and risk. Furthermore, the science of chemistry is shown to have become increasingly essential to society.