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Vol. 29 No. 2
March-April 2007

Bookworm | Books and publications hot off the press.
See also
www.iupac.org/publications

The Periodic Table at a Glance

M.A. Beckett and A.W.G. Platt
Blackwell Publishing Ltd., Oxford, UK, 2006
pp. 108 + viii, ISBN 9781405132992

reviewed by G.J. Leigh

This book is designed primarily as an inorganic chemistry review for first year undergraduates at English and Welsh (but perhaps not Scottish) universities. It will doubtless appeal to comparable students in other countries. However, it could possibly also be useful for more advanced students finishing high school. It does not aim to replace more detailed inorganic chemistry textbooks, but claims to expound principles in the context of periodicity and the periodic table. That being so, it is surprising that the complete table appears only inside the back cover, which makes it easily accessible, but somehow devalues it a bit in the eye of the new reader.

That being said, it does seem to represent a useful guide to a student who wishes to brush up on general theory. The significant text starts with atomic structure and a superficial description of electronic properties and wave mechanics, not enough for a student who is coming to these subjects for the first time. Quantum numbers and electronic energy levels are then summarized, leading to a description of the table and a list of the elements, and then finally the description of periodic atomic properties begins, on page 8. This seems about right. Finally basic redox processes are described.

The next section deals with structures of molecules, covalent bonding, hybridization, molecular shapes, metals, and crystals. Again, this is a fair if superficial summary. Thereafter, the book treats groups of atoms, starting with the alkali metals and the alkaline earths, with a nod to industrial processes. Then come the so-called p-block elements, Groups 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, and 18, with nods to more specialized matters, such as boron hydrides, siloxanes, and sulfur chemistry. Hydrogen follows, and then the largest section of the book, on transition elements, both d- and f-block elements. This necessitates some basic coordination chemistry, including discussion of stability constants, mechanisms of substitution, and ligand and crystal field theories. Some descriptive chemistry is necessarily included.

The book finishes with a reading list, but in truth it is a good summary of a lot of inorganic chemistry, which an informed student reviewing for tests would certainly find useful. However, it is not a detailed enough presentation to be used without a more substantial textbook close by, several of which spring to mind. I shall never forget, when once as a young inexperienced lecturer, I gave a public lecture full of all my ideas on periodicity, only to be met at my conclusion by an old man walking out in disgust, saying: “That’s all very well, but they have to know that copper sulfate is blue.” I now feel a bit like that old man. This is a good book within the limits laid down by its authors.

www.blackwellpublishing.com

G. Jeffery Leigh <g.jeffery.leigh@ntlworld.com> is a professor at the university of Sussex in Brighton, UK. He is a member of the IUPAC Chemical Nomenclature and Structure Representation Division.


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