Thursday, January 25, 2018

2018 Sandars Lectures - 'Chemical Attractions'

By Dr Peter Wothers, Director of Studies in Chemistry at Cambridge.

Held on the 6th, 7th and 8th of March in St Catherine’s College.

Lecture 1; 6th March.

The first lecture looks at how a young teenager first became addicted to collecting antique books on chemistry over 30 years ago. We will look at some of the very first ‘rare’ books purchased, and exactly what the attraction of them was. We will explore some of the other great chemical libraries formed in the past, and their different ‘flavours’ and strengths. We will also discuss how book collecting has changed over the past 30 years, during the age of the internet – a resource not available to the great collectors of the past. Some of the treasures stumbled across during the time collecting will be exhibited and discussed, including a possibly unique broadsheet summarizing one of the first text books of modern chemistry from the beginning of the 17th century.

Lecture 2; 7th March

This second lecture looks at some of the key chemical texts from the 18th century, when modern chemistry really began. We look at how an understanding of the air and the different gases it contains prompted a revolution in chemistry with the introduction of a new nomenclature which is still used today. We look at some of the key texts by authors such as Cavendish, Priestley, Scheele and Lavoisier and how the modern theory and language developed. We will also see how a chance acquisition of an additional item thrown in with a main lot in an auction led to the identification and purchase of an important piece of scientific apparatus. The lecture will include a couple of explosive chemical demonstrations!

Lecture 3; 8th March

In this third and final lecture, we look at some of the earliest books written by women chemists, prior to Madame Curie. Particularly important is Elizabeth Fulhame’s book from 1794: An essay on combustion, with a view to a new art of dying and painting. Also examined are the immensely influential and utterly delightful editions of Jane Marcet’s Conversations on Chemistry published between 1806 and 1853. This book takes the form of informal dialogues, or conversations, between the teacher, Mrs Bryan, and her two young students, Caroline and Emily. We will also look at other books written for younger audiences and some of the dangerous experiments they encouraged their readers to try out.

Further information here.

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