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The growing interdependence of the sciences was one of the outstanding characteristics of the first half of the twentieth century. “Inevitably,” Dr. Leicester points out, “this expanded vision led to closer contacts among chemists of every speciality, and also with scientists in other fields. Physics and physical chemistry were applied to organic compounds, and new substances that could not have been foreseen by the older theories were prepared. Reaction mechanisms were generalized. New borderline sciences sprang up. Chemical physics and biochemistry became sciences in their own right. Chemistry thus became a link between physics and biology.”
A continuation of A Source Book in Chemistry, 1400-1900 (HUP, 1952), this volume contains selections from ninety classic papers in all branches of chemistry—papers upon which contemporary research and practices are based.
The topics include such chemical techniques as microanalysis, polarography, hydrogen ion concentration, chromatography, electrophoresis, and the use of the ultramicroscope, the ultracentrifuge, and radioactive tracers; modern structural theories, with emphasis on crystal structure, radioactive decay, isotopes, molecular structure, the applications of quantum mechanics to chemistry, thermodynamics, electrolytes, and kinetics; the more recent studies on artificial radioactivity and the transuranium elements; organic chemistry, with reference to general synthetic methods, polymers, the structure of proteins, nucleic acids, alkaloids, steroids, and carotenoids; and biochemistry, including the concept of hormones and vitamins, separation of enzymes and viruses, metabolism of fats, proteins and carbohydrates, and energy production.
The Source Book serves as an introduction to present-day chemistry and can also be used as supplementary reading in general chemistry courses, since, in many instances, the papers explain the circumstances under which a particular discovery was made—information that is customarily lacking in textbooks. Although the selections are classified into the usual branches of the science, it will be apparent to the reader how the discoveries in any one branch were taken up and incorporated into others.