Science & Education

, Volume 17, Issue 2–3, pp 265–287 | Cite as

Tin oxide chemistry from Macquer (1758) to Mendeleeff (1891) as revealed in the textbooks and other literature of the era

  • Kevin C. de Berg
Original Paper


Eight chemistry textbooks written from 1758 to 1891 have been analyzed for the way they present the chemistry of the oxides of tin. This analysis gives insight into the foundation of a number of chemical ideas such as nomenclature and composition used in modern chemistry. Four major preparation techniques for the production of tin oxides emerge from the textbook analysis: the heating of tin in air; the addition of nitric acid to tin; the alkaline hydrolysis of tin(II) and tin(IV) salts; and the acid hydrolysis of alkaline stannate salts. Early textbooks of the period under discussion give lengthy descriptions and explanations for some of these reaction schemes while later textbooks of the period tend to give concise descriptions without explanations. The models used in the explanations are analyzed in some detail and implications drawn for chemistry education. Particular attention is given to the reaction between tin and concentrated nitric acid and a comparison made with the reaction between copper and concentrated nitric acid. Some 20th century concepts are superimposed on the concepts of Lavoisier and Marcet to show how a chemical reaction might be modelled.


Chemical revolution Phlogiston Caloric Calx Oxygen theory Acid Alkali Composition Stannous and stannic oxides 



The author gratefully acknowledges the financial assistance given by Avondale College during a sabbatical leave at Purdue University where most of the material for this paper was researched. The assistance given by Professors George Bodner and Bartow Culp in accessing important historical materials is gratefully acknowledged.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department Of ChemistryAvondale CollegeCooranbongAustralia

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