Molecular physical chemistry: a concise introduction

Molecular physical chemistry: a concise introduction 
K A McLauchlan 
Cambridge, UK: RSC | 2004 | 2125pp | ?19.95 (SB) | ISBN 0854046194  
Reviewed by Peter Barnes 

Physical chemistry can be a difficult subject to learn: there are many seemingly unconnected areas and only when we take a step back do we realise that certain fundamentals of quantum mechanics and statistics lie at the heart of almost everything. Many textbooks cover topics separately and often in chronological order of their discovery, but there has been a trend recently towards a ’bottom up’ approach.  


Mol Phys chem cover

Molecular physical chemistry is no exception: after an introductory chapter that brings together basic ideas in physical chemistry, partition functions are introduced early. Elementary statistical mechanics is beautifully presented and there is just enough maths to derive the most important results.  

The largest part of the book is then taken up with thermodynamics and its applications using statistical mechanics. Examples are well chosen, wide ranging, including the entropy of gases, ortho- and para-hydrogen, spectroscopic line intensities, chemical equilibria and transition state theory.  

Finally there is a chapter on reaction dynamics, with the emphasis on individual reactive encounters rather than ensembles of molecules. This is the lightest part of the book, but as an introduction to reactive scattering and potential energy surfaces it will complement other more heavyweight texts. 

True to its title, this book is indeed concise. It does not explain the whole of physical chemistry from scratch but for those who are already familiar with the subject it pulls things together and is a great aid to understanding. The writing is clear and the diagrams are simple and informative.  

This will be a valuable book both to students in the second half of their courses and to lecturers alike.