, Volume 20, Issue 2, pp 389-393
Date: 05 Jan 2011

Visual tools and the quiet chemical revolution

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The 1981 Chemistry Nobel laureate Roald Hoffmann writes of his craft: “The structural information that chemists need to communicate is at some important level inherently graphic—it is essentially a shape to be drawn. The process is representation, a symbolic transformation of reality. It is both graphic and linguistic. It has a historicity. It is artistic and scientific. The representational process in chemistry is a shared code of this subculture” (Hoffmann 1995, 69). The history of this representational process and its role in scientific creativity, as well as in scientific communication, is the subject of Alan J. Rocke’s newest book Image and Reality: Kekulé, Kopp, and the Scientific Imagination.

This book is the first volume in a series in the history of chemistry published as a joint venture by the University of Chicago Press with the Chemical Heritage Foundation in Philadelphia. Image and Reality builds upon Rocke’s previous pioneering work on chemical atomism, the development of ...