100 years of physical chemistry: a collection of landmark papers

100 years of physical chemistry: a collection of landmark papers
Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, UK 2003 | Pp 367 | ?50.00 (HB) | ISBN 0854049878
Reviewed by Dennis Rouvray

As Michael Faraday (1791-1867) was arguably the greatest physical chemist in Victorian Britain, it is wholly appropriate that an august scientific society should be named after him. Somewhat surprisingly, however, the Faraday Society does not have a precise foundation date. It seems that those responsible for setting up this learned body were much more concerned with getting it into existence than deciding on a specific date to mark its beginning.

The Faraday Society thus came into being over a period of a year or so. Although the Society appears to have been conceived in 1902, it was not until June 1903 that the first scientific meeting took place. Somewhat later, in 1905, the first volume of the Transactions of the Faraday Society appeared in print. It is to mark the centenary of the first scientific meeting of the Faraday Society that the book under review here has been prepared.

The Royal Society of Chemistry had the engaging idea of approaching 23 leading physical chemists and asking each to select a single paper that had appeared in Faraday journals over the past century. Each of the selected papers is reproduced in the book with a preceding commentary by the scientific reporter who selected it.

The idea was not only to point out the significance of the specific paper but also to bring the reader up to date on subsequent developments in the field since the paper was published. The idea has worked well and it is fascinating to see which papers out of the many thousands were in fact selected. The book also fulfills the valuable role of affording us with a snapshot of what is deemed to be important in the realm of physical chemistry at the beginning of the twenty-first century.