Form and Content

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

Exploring Chemistry is a well-written description of the science of chemistry that is intended to introduce the field in an appealing fashion to nonscientists between the ages of thirteen and fifteen. Written mostly in the third person, the book is divided into four unnumbered chapters—“Why Did Chemistry Begin,” “Matter and the Alchemists,” “The New Chemistry,” and “Frontiers of Chemistry”—each of which is a well-illustrated exploration of a facet of chemistry that prepares readers for the next chapter.

Roy A. Gallant starts his book by explaining why chemistry began. In antiquity, human beings first attempted to find ways to meet their many material needs by manipulating the world around them—for medicines, for fuels, for agricultural chemicals, and so forth. He also points out that the practice of modern chemistry provides an adequate supply of these things.

Among the first examples given in the book are the use of fire and the ability to turn clays and metals into needed implements and weapons. Gallant clearly shows that the development of these divergent yet cojoined endeavors led to science and then to chemistry. As he notes, “It is the way that man works, the method he uses, that makes him a scientist.” The accidental discovery of fire is linked to later “accidents” that led to pottery, metal working, and glass making. Throughout, it is made explicit that accurate record-keeping and inquisitiveness led to the accumulation of more information. It was this information that set the stage for the development of science and of modern chemistry.

In “Matter and the Alchemists,”...

(The entire section is 678 words.)