Book Reviews

CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics Celebrates its 100th Anniversary

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With publication of the 94th (2013-2014) Edition of the CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics this year, the Handbook celebrates its 100th Anniversary. The first edition of the Handbook was published in 1913.  It was a small, pocket-size document of 116 pages. The publisher of the first volume was a family owned Cleveland company that sold chemical laboratory supplies and that remained in control of the Handbook until 1987. The Preface in the first volume stated:

“In compliance with the requests of hundreds of our friends for a small but comprehensive book of reference on chemical and physical topics, we have designed and compiled this pocket manual of Chemistry and Physics.” 

The Handbook came to be commonly known as the “Rubber Bible” because as Sir William Wakeham stated in the Foreword of the 92nd Edition, “it seemed to us to contain the collated data of science.”  The Handbook has continued to be published and updated on an annual basis except for missing some editions during the world wars of the past century. 

The Handbook has had only five editors over its lifetime. The first Editor was William R. Veazey, a professor of chemistry at the Case School of Applied Science, now Case Western Reserve University.  He was succeeded by Charles D. Hodgman, professor of physics at Case, who led the Handbook for almost 50 years from 1915 to 1963. Next, Robert C. Weast, professor of chemistry at Case, served as editor for 25 years from 1964 to 1989, and David R. Lide of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) served for 20 years from 1990 to 2009.  W. M. Haynes of NIST has served as Editor since 2010. The relative stability and broad interests of the editors have played key roles in the successful transition of the Handbook over a number of generations of students and scientists. Another important factor to the success of the Handbook has been the contributions of a worldwide network of outstanding scientists who have provided input of the highest quality in their own areas of expertise on a continuing basis.

After the publication of the Handbook was controlled by a single company for almost 75 years, the company was acquired by Time Mirror Co. in 1987. Subsequent owners, through the present publisher, Taylor and Francis Group, have recognized the Handbook as a flagship publication and have provided the strong support necessary to maintain its high standards and enable it to evolve into the internet age while meeting the changing needs of its users. The current hardcopy edition of the CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics comprises 2,600 pages of critically evaluated data; it is also available in eBook and interactive online formats.

The CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics has become an essential resource for students and scientists worldwide for physical and chemical data and information on related topics, such as biochemistry, geophysics, astronomy, and environmental science. It has attained a position as the first source for technical data, especially for those seeking information in areas outside their own area of expertise, but which they need to bridge a scientific gap. A high standard of quality has been a hallmark for the Handbook over the past century in providing critically evaluated data with reliable sources of documentation and in continually updating and expanding the coverage of the diverse subject matter in the Handbook consistent with advances in science and technology. Few could argue with the claim that the CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics has been the single most widely used source of physical and chemical data over the past century.

As the CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics enters its second century, it is expected that, based on its current reputation and its long-term history, it will continue to serve as the single most trusted source for chemical and physical data. Efforts will continue to make it more user friendly in terms of delivery mechanisms, to expand its coverage to meet the needs of the next generations of students and scientists, and to maintain the highest standards of quality control of the data in terms of the reliability of the information and its documentation.

Mickey Haynes, Editor-in-Chief, CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics


NEW BOOKS. J. Am. Chem. Soc., 1917, 39 (4), pp 837–840


Does Science Need a Global Language?

Montgomery, Scott L. Does Science Need a Global Language? University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 2013; pp. 1-226 + xiii,   ISBN 978-0-226-53503-6 (hardcover). $22.50.

The obvious rise of English as the predominant language in the communication of science has generated quite a bit of commentary in recent years. Beginning with the editorials and publishing practices of Gene Garfield in the ‘60s (he not only observed the rise of English, but championed it), the first books on the subject appeared in the 90’s. The predominance of English in the sciences parallels its predominance in other areas, especially in the arts. In fact, many non-native speakers and authors of English cite movies and TV as their initial exposure to English. Language is indeed power and English has become the near universal language of international scientific conferences even when held in areas where English is not the primary language.  Written publications in English, especially scientific journals, have lagged somewhat, but the number of both journals and articles in English is on the increase. As a result, most scientific communication in English is between non-native speakers. The history of the languages of scientific communication is discussed and the rise of English into predominance has been relatively rapid, similar to the rise of Arabic in the first millennium. Has English become the Lingua Franca of science, similar to Latin and Arabic in the past? It’s not there yet, but may be on the way. Data and discussion are given for the number of English speakers and the number of countries represented as well as data and discussion on global education in and of English. Unfortunately, scientists who are native language speakers of English lag behind the rest of the world in bi- or multilingual capabilities.

Pros and cons of global scientific English are discussed, including Brain Drains, supplantation and even suppression of local languages, perceived hegemony, etc. The latter is not deemed to be happening and communication in local languages is actually encouraged, although global publication of results in English is not only preferred but essential. Occasional fears of non-English cultural suppression are probably unfounded. Translation, especially machine translation, has an effect on the trend, but the author deems the latter to not yet be accurate enough to facilitate scientific publication.  Scientific publication globally has shifted more toward for-profit publishers. Anglo-American English predominates in publication, especially at the hands of editors, many of whom have market and profit motives, and tends to suppress the omnipresent non-standard forms of English. Those versions, being far more common, may have to be accommodated in the future.

Previous Lingua Francas or other dominant languages of science have been supplanted, so what is the future of English in that exalted state? Chinese is currently touted as a possibility, but that probably will not happen given the trend for the Chinese to publish in English.

This reviewer found some topics lacking in discussion, including the rise and effects of open publishing and the hindrance of differing alphabets in learning any new language. However, the book is an excellent treatment of topics very important to scientific research, communication, and education in general. Highly recommended. In the last section, the answer to the title question is given and the answer is “yes.”

Bob Buntrock, Member, CINF Communications and Publications Committee


Every Molecule Tells a Story

Cotton, Simon, Every Molecule Tells a Story, CRC Press, Boca Raton FL, 2012;  pp. 266 + x, ISBN 978-1-4398-00-0073-6 (hardcover). $62.95.

The author describes this book neither as a textbook nor as a collection of reviews. It is a collection of essays on more than 200 chemical compounds. It is probably aimed at the lay public, but would also find value in schools and colleges.

The chemistry is reasonably sophisticated with many structures. The chemical and topical essays are grouped in fourteen chapters. Titles include atmosphere and water, carbohydrates and artificial sweeteners, hydrocarbons, acids and alkalis, steroids and sex, the senses, cosmetics and perfumes, natural killers, unnatural killers, explosives, pleasure molecules (alcohol, nicotine, designer drugs), natural healers, unnatural healers, and synthetic polymers.

The terminology is British and in some cases misleading. “Killers” would better be described as toxins, especially since at least one, thalidomide, is not a “killer” but a notorious fetotoxin. “Healers” are better described as medicinals or pharmaceuticals. Several (in)famous compounds are conspicuous by their absence, including BPA and dioxin (TCDD). Dimethylmercury is described, but methylmercuric cation is not.

The bibliography lists additional resources on general topics discussed, as well as resources for each chapter and some specific chemicals. Recommended for high school and college libraries, and educators.

Bob Buntrock, Member, CINF Communications and Publications Committee


Patent Strategy for Researchers and Research Managers

Knight, Jackson. 3rd Edition (February 2013), Hoboken, NJ: Wiley. ISBN: 978-0-470-05774-2 (hardcover, also available paperback and ebook), 256 pages, US $90.00.

“The book is designed to be a ‘how to’ manual rather than a guide to patent law. Aimed at the researcher or technology manager, it explains how to use the patent system to best advantage

for commercial gain. There is a strong focus on business throughout the book – explanations of legal concepts are pragmatic rather than academic, and the insightful advice evidently draws on personal experience… While there is no substitute for experience, this book is possibly the next best thing.”  (Chemistry & Industry, April 2013)

Good book reviews were brought to our attention by Wendy Warr