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chemistry - 14 titles

Author:  Joseph Priestley (1733-1804)
Title/Imprint: Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, vol.62
pp.147-264; London , 1772

This essay was the first of many in which Priestley discovered many new gases, or "airs," which he then incorporated into the phlogiston theory that explained how things burn. The main discovery was that of oxygen, or what he called "depholgisticated air."

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Author:  Carl Wilhelm Scheele (1742-1786)
Title/Imprint: Chemische Abhandlung von der Luft und dem Feuer
Magn. Swederus: Upsala and Leipzig , 1777

Scheele independently discovered oxygen in 1772 and described the new gas in this work. He is rarely given credit for the discovery, however, because he published his results well after Priestley did.

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Author:  Friedrich Wöhler (1800-1882)
Title/Imprint: Annalen der Physik und Chemie, vol.12
pp.253-256; , 1828

This important paper describes Wöhler's synthesis of urea, previously considered an animal product, from ammonium cyanate, an inorganic compound. This was a critical step in the demise of the theory of "vitalism," in which a special life force controls the processes in animate bodies.

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Author:  Justus, Freiherr von Liebig (1803-1873)
Title/Imprint: Anleitung zur Analyse Organischer Körper
Friedrich Vieweg und Sohn: Braunschweig , 1837

This book sums up Liebig's breakthrough work in organic analysis. His combustion method enabled chemists to determine precisely and quickly the carbon content of organic compounds.

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Author:  J. Willard (Josiah Willard) Gibbs (1839-1903)
Title/Imprint: On the Equilibrium of Heterogeneous Substances
New Haven , 1874-78

This offprint from the Transactions of the Connecticut Academy of Sciences is Gibbs' statement of the phase rule, or the law that determines the number of physical states possible to a chemical system in equilibrium. His contribution helped transform physical chemistry from an empirical to a deductive science.

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Author:  Dmitry Ivanovich Mendeleyev (1834-1907)
Title/Imprint: Grundlagen der Chemie
Carl Ricker: St. Petersburg , 1891

From 1868 to 1870, Mendeleyev published his classic work in St. Petersburg on his principles of chemistry that enabled him to organize the elements into what became known as the periodic table. The arrangement left some gaps which he predicted were for elements that were yet to be discovered (gallium, scandium, and germanium) and predicted their properties. This copy is the first appearance of the work in translation (an English version appeared later in 1891).

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Author:  John William Strutt, Baron Rayleigh (1842-1919)
Title/Imprint: Argon, a New Constituent of the Atmosphere
Smithsonian Institution: Washington , 1896

Originally published in the Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society of London, this copy marks its separate appearance as published by the Smithsonian. Rayleigh's discovery of argon came about when he noticed that the density of nitrogen depended on how it was obtained. Thinking that the difference was caused by the appearance of an undetected component on the atmosphere. He finally succeeded in isolating the inert gas argon, which he named from the Greek word for "inactive."

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Author:  Ernest Rutherford (1871-1937)
Title/Imprint: Radio-activity
Cambridge University Press: Cambridge , 1904

This remarkable work is Rutherford's summary of his research in which he formulated his model of a nuclear atom. His studies on radioactive elements made him conclude that radioactivity was caused by atoms of one element disintegrating into atoms of a totally different element.

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Author:  Charles Goodyear (1800-1860)
Title/Imprint: Gum-elastic and Its Varieties, and The Applications and Uses of Vulcanized Gum-elastic
2 vols.; New Haven , 1853

This is Goodyear's own account of his discovery of the process of vulcanization that allowed the commercial use of rubber.

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Author:  Henry Cavendish (1731-1810)
Title/Imprint: Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, vol.74 and vol.75
vol.74: pp.119-153; vol.75: pp.372-384; London , 1784

Cavendish's two papers described his discovery that water is composed of hydrogen and oxygen and destroyed the Aristotelian notion that water is an element.

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Author:  John Dalton (1766-1844)
Title/Imprint: A New System of Chemical Philosophy
2 vols. in 3; S. Russell for R. Bickerstaff: Manchester , 1808-1827

Published over a period of 19 years, Dalton's work laid the foundation for our modern atomic theory. His system explained the chemical structure of matter based on the atom and that atoms of different elements differed in size and mass.

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Author:  Robert Boyle (1627-1691)
Title/Imprint: The Sceptical Chymist or, Chymico-physical Doubts and Paradoxes
J. Cadwell for J. Crooke: London , 1661

Less than 35 copies of this first edition of Boyle's masterpiece are known to exist. Written in the form of a dialogue, Boyle presented a new concept of matter that severly criticized the old Aristotelian theories. He believed that every phenomenon is due to collisions of atoms or groups of atoms.

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Author:  Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier (1743-1794)
Title/Imprint: Traité Élémentaire de Chimie
2 vols.; Cuchet: Paris , 1789

This important work described the discoveries of Lavoisier that caused the overthrow of the old phlogiston theory, replaced by the oxygen theory of combustion. In this book, he describes how the new chemistry should be organized and investigated, essentially laying the groundwork for our modern concepts of chemistry.

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Author:  Hieronymous Brunschwig (ca.1450-ca.1512)
Title/Imprint: Kleines Distillierbuch
Johann Grüninger: Strassburg , 8 May 1500

This is one of the earliest books on chemistry and pharmacology. The first part of the book deals with the process of distillation, the second is in the form of an herbal and is a discussion of plants and their attributes, while the last part deals with plant remedies. This work became an important authority and was very influential throughout the sixteenth century.

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