Systematic nomenclature of organic chemistry

Systematic nomenclature of organic chemistry
D Hellwinkel
Heidelberg: Springer 2001 | Pp vi + 227 | ?22.95 | ISBN 3540411380
Reviewed by Ian Farrell

Chemical nomenclature is rather like visiting the dentist: no body enjoys it; it’s painful; and everyone agrees that it is important and necessary. Traditionally, undergraduate chemistry students have always struggled to become fluent in the language of organic structures (at least I did!) so a good book on the subject is invaluable when at college or university.

A good text on this subject should be clear (ambiguity is not desirable) concise and authoritative. Hellwinkel’s book, Systematic nomenclature of organic chemistry, is all of these. The first two chapters are very detailed and introduce us to ’the rules’ of nomenclature: chapter one describes ’parent structures’ while chapter two tackles ’substituted systems’. At this point - and just when a novice undergraduate may be asking themselves why on earth they need to know all this information - the author pulls us back on track with chapter three: a demonstration of how the rules are put to use in everyday life. This looks at relatively complicated structures that have multiple functional groups and so mean that many of the rules introduced earlier have to be applied together. A good teaching approach.

Next, organometallic compounds are given the usual cursory glance which books on this subject usually afford them. Seven pages, to be exact. But since this is a text on nomenclature of organic chemistry, limiting discussion of this huge field to organic synthesis agents is probably wise.

Chapter six is where things get very complicated. If you want answers to questions like ’What is the most senior ring system in a fused polycyclic?’ then this is the place for you. Also included here are hints and tips for looking at stereochemistry. I found Hellwinkel’s treatment of this latter point to be particularly good.

If you are a student who is thinking ’?22.95 seems like a lot to pay for a couple of hundred A5 pages on such a specialist subject’, then I encourage you to think again. Had I bought this text as an undergraduate it would now be sitting on my desk looking dog-eared and thoroughly worn-out. This will be the sort of book which will constantly be useful.