From Roger Fenwick

I noted with interest two references to the European Commission’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) in your May edition (pages 2, 7). That chemistry is very much to the fore in the Commission’s recently-published working paper reflects the hard work of national societies, FECS/EuCheMS and Cefic in recent years; with effort and good arguments, it is possible to influence the Commission.   

Two points, however, require comment. It may be that few chemistry projects per se  have been funded in FP6 (which still continues) as Frank Agterberg states, but chemistry and (applied) chemists are central to the life sciences, nanotechnology, food quality and safety, and environment thematic priorities and their contributions should not be ignored. Increasingly, national and European projects are about transdisciplinary cooperation and chemists are at the forefront of many such activities. 

It is also important to point out that the figure of ?73bn is, alas, only the proposed budget for FP7, and is likely to be reduced as negotiation proceeds. Nevertheless, the individual proposed budget lines do provide an early indication of where the Commission’s priorities lie. Having secured positive references to chemistry within this initial text, the pressing need for the chemistry community across Europe is to ensure that these are reflected in the detail of the final work programmes of FP7 and in the strategic research agendas of a number of European technology platforms.   

In these ways we will contribute to creating a truly European knowledge-based economy, ensure career opportunities for our students, stimulate interest in chemistry at school level and contribute a heightened public understanding and appreciation of the role of chemists in the 21st century. 

R Fenwick FRSC
Norwich, UK 


From Huw Pritchard
The decline in education in chemistry, in my view, began with the introduction of orbitals into the syllabus, and was exacerbated by the growing contemporaneous paranoia about the dangers of ’chemicals’ (often without specifying what they might be). Orbitals have their uses, once you have a nodding acquaintance with 2nd order differential equations, degeneracy, orthogonality, and the like, but not at this level. 

The appeal of chemistry at the introductory level is in smells (eg the various simple esters that were used in flavourings), colours and precipitates, acids and evolution of gases, combustion of all sorts, melting lead and casting it into shapes, rubbing liquid mercury on a farthing to make it look like a sixpence, etc. 

Teaching chemistry in the abstract looks like a mixture of dogma and science fiction: its fuzziness compares unfavourably with the exactitude of physics . 

About 30 years ago, when my daughter was swotting for her final high school exam in chemistry, she was going through some old question papers. One she asked me was ’Which of these three gases smells: H2, CO2, SO2?’ Later, she asked me ’Daddy, exactly what does the Pauli exclusion principle REALLY mean?’ I thought for a while, and responded (in exasperation): ’If you don’t know what sulphur dioxide smells like, then I cannot explain it to you before tomorrow’s exam!’ 

H Pritchard MRSC
Toronto, Canada 


From Jack Hopp? 
There is nothing new in the ’invidious and insulting distinction made between scientists and chemists’ which has so incensed Clement Robertson (Chemistry World, May 2005, p33). 

In The Times  on 8 May 1945 (a facsimile copy of which was supplied with The Times 2 on 5 May 2005), John Donaldson contributes a letter to the editor concerning the future of ’German intellectuals at present domiciled in England and America’. He continues ’the actors, musicians, painters, scientists, doctors, chemists? Will they remain where they are - the easy course; or will they return to Germany...?’   

I suspect that in this case, the writer is confusing chemists with pharmacists, although I am sure that the latter would consider themselves to be scientists. Unfortunately even after 60 years, no such excuse can be made for those who sanctioned the blurb for Rough Science

J Hopp? FRSC
Maidstone, UK 




From Sam Logan
With regard to the mention in Flashback of the anniversary of the birth of F M Raoult (Chemistry World, May 2005, p80), it should be pointed out that the essence of Raoult’s contribution to the behaviour of solutions was his proposal that for an ideal solution the partial pressure of a component of that solution is proportional to the mole fraction of that component.   

This is not, in general, proportional to the number of moles per unit volume, as was stated. 

S Logan FRSC
Portstewart, UK 


From Jennifer Yip 
I found your article Take two bottles in the shower?  by Maria Burke on 2 in 1 shampoo with conditioner formulations excellent (January 2005, p32). 

I’m relatively new to the business of formulating personal care products, and it is nice to have a broader, non-sponsored article reviewing the key topics and clarifying a bit of the basic chemistry. 

J Yip
By e-mail