Exploring Chemistry Critical Context
by Roy A. Gallant

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Critical Context

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

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Exploring Chemistry is an older book that still offers an excellent beginning for surveying the basis for, the development of, and some rewards of the practice of chemistry. It seems most suitable for history of science courses and courses that, in some elementary and middle schools, seek to delve into the foundations of science and into its many ramifications.

Roy A. Gallant clearly shows how natural philosophy, alchemy, and basic science were blended to create modern chemistry. It is also made explicit that chemists must be bright, intuitive, and willing to take risks to develop new things. The great rewards of conceptualizing and actualizing chemistry are implied, and the book would be a good primer to explain to young people what chemistry is, what it can become, and why they may wish to become chemists. The necessary intellectual requirements and the labor-intensive nature of the profession are identified by past examples, promoting realistic career choices.

Exploring Chemistry contains numerous good black-and-white and color illustrations that help to focus the interest of young readers. All these aspects make the book useful for young people as a means of evaluating chemistry and what it is like to be a chemist or a science historian.

Exploring Chemistry is one of many writings by Gallant, who has endeavored in such works as Exploring the Universe (1956) and Exploring the Weather (1957) to explain science. It is nicely written and is a useful preview or adjunct to the chemistry texts written for students in elementary and secondary school science courses. While the book only conceptualizes chemistry up to the 1950’s, it does so well and lacks most of the dated and therefore erroneous information that makes many such books quite useless. Gallant’s book is not as detailed as some others in the area, such as Elizabeth K. Cooper’s Discovering Chemistry (1959), but it engages the reader in the wonder of chemistry.