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The Case of the Poisonous Socks: Tales from Chemistry

By: William H Brock

362 pages, 51 b/w illustrations

Royal Society of Chemistry

Paperback | Sep 2011 | #194240 | ISBN-13: 9781849733243
Availability: Usually dispatched within 5 days Details
NHBS Price: £19.99 $26/€22 approx

About this book

In 1868, "The Times" reported that poisons contained in dyes were affecting the public's health. A doctor informed a London magistrate that brilliantly coloured socks had caused severe "constitutional and local complaint" to several of his patients. In one case, a patient's foot had become so swollen that his boots had to be cut off. Respected chemist, William Crookes, offered to identify the poison if doctors would send him samples of the deadly socks. The story of how he solved the mystery gives this book its title and forms the basis of the first chapter.

Written by a respected science historian and established author, this collection of essays contains 43 tales of chemists and their discoveries from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Other topics covered include: the quirky beliefs of American philanthropist, James Dewar; the development of the chemical laboratory since the 1830s, and the career of C.P. Snow before he became a novelist. Its broad coverage and modern approach makes it of interest to chemists, teachers, historians and laypeople with an interest in science. Written with a light style and presented in a series of unconnected vignettes the book is easy to dip into at leisure.



Part 1: Chemical Futures
1. The Case of the Poisonous Socks
2. Taste, Smell and Flavour
3. Tales of Hofmann
4. Liebig on Toast
5. The Future of Research at the Royal Institution (London) and the Smithsonian Institution (Washington)
6. The Future of Chemistry in 1901
7. The Alchemical Society 1912-1915

Part 2: Organizing Chemistry
8. Putting the "S" into the "Three R's"
9. The London Chemical Society
10. The State of Chemistry in Britain in 1846
11. The Laboratory Before and After Liebig
12. The Chemical Origins of Practical Physics
13. Chemical Algebra
14. The B Club
15. Chemistry By Discovery in a Phrase

Part 3: A Cluster of Chemists
16. Amedeo Avogadro
17. Creating a Path through the Dark Forest of Organic Chemistry
18. August Kekule (1829-96): Theoretical Chemist
19. The Don Quixote of Chemistry: Sir Benjamin Collins Brodie (1817-1880)
20. The Epistle of Henry the Chemist
21. He Knew He Was Right - Fritz Haber
22. J. R. Partington (1886-1965): Physical Chemistry in Deed and Word
23. Henry Crookes, Founder of Crookes Laboratories
24. A Life of Magic Chemistry

Part 4: Women in Alchemy and Chemistry
25. Women in Alchemy
26. Teaching Chemistry to Women
27. Musical Affinities
28. Edith Hilda Usherwood (1898-1988) and the Ingold Partnership
Part 5: Chemical Books and Journal
29. The Fate of Eponymous Chemical Journals
30. The Lamp of Learning
31. "The Greatest Work which England has ever Produced": Henry Watts and the Dictionary of Chemistry
32. Chemistry in the Aquarium
33. Insurance Chemistry
34. Math for Chemists
35. The Chemistry of Pottery
36. Baker's Dozen

Part 6: Lost to Chemistry
37. They Also Ran
38. Who Was Crookes's Musician-Chemist?
39. The Chemist from Hanwell Asylum
40. George Du Maurier (1834-96)
41. Sir Stafford Cripps
42. C. P. Snow as a Physical Chemist

Sources, Acknowledgements and Further Reading

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William H. Brock is a retired Professor of the History of Science. He read Chemistry at UCL before studying the History of Science at the University of Leicester where he later became a lecturer then a professor. He has published many papers and books including "The Fontana History of Chemistry".

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