G.I. Brown (1964)

Introduction to Physical Chemistry by G.I. Brown, published by Longmans, Green and Co. Ltd and printed in Great Britain. This copy, which was awarded as a school prize in 1966 (not to me), is the first edition from 1964.

For anyone who studied chemistry at a British school during the latter part of the 20th century, the name of G.I. Brown will be familiar. Over the course of two decades his physical chemistry textbook went through three editions: 1964, 1972 and 1983 with a second impression of the latter in 1984.

With no less than 48 chapters covering 550 pages, the first edition of 1964 is a testament to the growth of this branch of science since it was founded in the 1880s by van ‘t Hoff, Arrhenius and Ostwald. Here is the contents listing:

1. Fundamental Laws
2. Measurement of Equivalent weights of elements
3. Dalton’s Atomic Theory and determination of atomic weights
4. Gases
5. Molecular theory
6. Measurement of molecular weight
7. Kinetic theory
8. Outlines of atomic structure
9. The electron
10. Radioactivity and the nuclear atom
11. The arrangement of extra-nuclear electrons
12. Radioactive disintegration and isotopes
13. The atomic nucleus
14. Nuclear energy
15. The chemical bond
16. The electrovalent or ionic bond
17. The covalent bond
18. Resonance
19. Metallic, hydrogen and van der Waals’ bonding
20. Crystal structure
21. Solutions of solids in liquids
22. Solutions of gases in liquids
23. Solutions of liquids in liquids
24. Solidification of Solutions. Eutectics
25. Vapor pressure, boiling/freezing point of solutions with non-volatile solutes
26. The osmotic pressure of solutions
27. Thermochemistry
28. The Law of Mass Action. Velocity and equilibrium constants.
29. Effect of catalysis, pressure and temperature on reactions
30. Activation energy
31. Order, molecularity and mechanism of reactions
32. Catalysis
33. Ionic theory and conductivity
34. Ostwald’s Dilution Law
35. Solubility Product
36. pH values and indicators
37. Acids and bases
38. Hydrolysis of salts
39. Cells
40. Electrolysis
41. Transport numbers
42. Corrosion
43. Electronic theory of oxidation and reduction
44. Complex ions
45. Surface effects
46. Colloids
47. The Phase Rule
48. Free Energy and Entropy

It is instructive to compare the above with the contents list from the edition published 20 years later. The 1984 text was reorganized and edited into 100 less pages than its predecessor, with new material introduced on electronic orbitals and spectroscopy, while Free Energy and Entropy was promoted from chapter 48 to chapter 24. Curiously though the chapter on the Phase Rule was dropped. In overall terms, the comparison shows that the 1964 book gave more time and space for students to absorb its ideas while the 1984 edition has fewer words, a quicker pace and less detail. It can be debated whether this resulted in students learning faster.

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P Mander January 2022