Fall 2011/Winter 2012, Vol. 29, No. 3
Go to the movies—the first ones—with a history of celluloid and its cultural cache. Visit a time when chemistry was a drawing attraction on the lecture circuit and Humphry Davy its star. Explore the little-known story of Japanese-American chemists in America’s World War II internment camps, and the treatment they received there. Plus treasures from CHF’s collections, book and museum reviews, interviews, and more.
Behind the Barbed Wire of Manzanar
At the onset of World War II, the United States faced a sudden shortage of rubber, an essential wartime material. One concentrated effort to find a sustainable domestic source occurred in an unlikely place: a Japanese-American internment camp in California.
Bridging the Gaps
James Tour has made graphene from garbage, created molecule-sized cars, and turned chemistry into songs. He's a man with faith in both science and religion.
Celluloid: The Eternal Substitute
Before becoming a synonym for cinema, celluloid was never quite a star attraction. But able to imitate expensive materials like ivory, tortoiseshell, and linen, the first successful synthetic plastic played a subtle role in shaping consumer culture.
Factory to Farm
In 1944 Henry Morgenthau, Jr., President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s secretary of the Treasury, had a vision. He saw postwar Germany as a vast farm—an agrarian state in which all heavy industry would be strictly forbidden and all advanced technologies effectively banished.
Facts and Fictions
Deborah Harkness is a historian of science. Recently, she wrote a work of fiction, A Discovery of Witches, in which vampires, witches, alchemy, and other wondrous creations are found. She spoke with Chemical Heritage’s editor in chief Michal Meyer.
Made in America
Anne Fredrickson reviews the Mercer Museum in Doylestown, Pennsylvania.
Making the Process
By 1790 chemistry was the up-and-coming science. The products of chemistry—industrially useful salts, acids, and alkalis—would soon be measured not by the ounce (or the gram) but by the ton. A Frenchman and a scientifically uneducated Belgian led the way.
In the late 1770s, in the midst of the French Enlightenment, Franz Anton Mesmer was at the height of his medical career. Hundreds of people flocked to be cured by the man in the lilac taffeta robe who waved his hands and an iron rod over his patients’ bodies, sending them into fits as they fell to the ground.
You can’t tell a book by its cover. One of the most modest of all the bindings in CHF’s rare-book collection is actually a great treasure: the first edition of Pandora, Das ist, Die Edleste Gab Gottes (Pandora, That Is, the Noblest Gift of God).
Playing It Safe?
Jody A. Roberts reviews Sandra Steingraber's Raising Elijah: Protecting Our Children in an Age of Environmental Crisis.
Roads to Revolution
James R. Voelkel reviews H. Floris Cohen's How Modern Science Came into the World: Four Civilizations, One 17th-Century Breakthrough.
The Golden Rule
For the 19th-century chemist life was never simple. Chemical names, symbols, and relationships were in constant flux. A heated and often highly theoretical debate raged over the nature of the elements, their relationship to one another, and even the language used to describe them. In the midst of all this uncertainty, the working chemist who wanted to avoid the burden of theory and extended calculations longed for a quick, reliable way to quantitatively work out the composition of salts and other products of chemical reactions.
The Platonic Solids
The various components of The Platonic Solids, one of the works on display in the Elemental Matters exhibit at CHF, represent the earliest visualization of the elements. Their maker, Rebecca Kamen, explains.
When I Grow Up
It’s not often that an elementary-school student is offered a chance to see, let alone hold, a Nobel Prize. It’s even rarer that one would refuse the opportunity. But that is exactly what happened when Paul Lauterbur brought his medal to a class at Countryside School in 2004.