The Chemical Educator, Vol. 10, No.2, Media Reviews, © 2005The Chemical Educator


Media Review

Speaking of Science: Notable Quotes on Science, Engineering, and the Environment. Compiled and edited by Jon Fripp, Michael Fripp, and Deborah Fripp. LLH Technology Publishing: 3578 Old Rail Road, Eagle Rock, VA 24085, 2000. Phone: (800) 247-6553; (419) 281-1802 outside U.S.A.; Illustrations. x + 242 pp, paperbound, 15.3 ´ 22.6 cm. $14.95 plus shipping and handling $5.00 for first book, $3.00 for each additional book. ISBN 0-878707-51-5.

For some mysterious reason compilers of quotation collections seem to be related to each other, although I may be generalizing from just two examples. Two years ago (Chem. Educator 2002, 7, 387; DOI 10.1333/s00897020631a) I reviewed C. C. Gaither and A. E. Cavazos-Gaither’s Scientifically Speaking: A Dictionary of Quotations (Institute of Physics: Bristol, England/Philadelphia, PA, 2002). Within a period of six years (1996–2002) this husband–wife team have compiled seven additional anthologies of quotations, all published by the Institute of Physics Publishing.

In Speaking of Science three members of the Fripp family have compiled an excellent collection of science-related quotations. Jon Fripp (b. 1967) is a registered professional civil engineer with undergraduate and graduate degrees from Virginia Polytechnic Institute, who has planned, designed, and analyzed hydraulic structures. Michael Fripp (b. 1970) possesses an undergraduate degree in engineering science and mechanics from Virginia Tech and a graduate degree in aeronautical and astronautical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and he specializes in structural and acoustic dynamics, teaching, and viewgraph engineering. Deborah Fripp (b. 1970) has an undergraduate degree in biology from Stanford University and a graduate degree in marine biology from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and from MIT, and she works on dolphin behavior and stress hormones in rats. In line with the familial connection, among the authors from whom they quote are Archie Fripp, Jr. (microgravity scientist, b. 1939), Archie Fripp, Sr. (army officer, 1906–1970), and Michael Fripp (one of the editors).

According to the Fripps,

Technical quotes are interesting because they often represent snapshots of scientific progress. We have tried to include quotes voicing disparate points of view. In some cases, these quotes articulate opposing points of view while in other cases these quotes present the evolution of scientific thought (p v).

In this entertaining and easy-to-use anthology the Fripps, who have collected quotations for many years, have topically arranged more than 1500 items from their collection into seven chapters, which are subdivided into 68 subsections. To some extent, the quotes reflect the interests of the editors:

·  Chapter 1, Science

Physics, Weights and Measures, Materials Science, Chemistry, Biology, Animal Behavior, Evolution, Cloning, Archæology, Anthropology, Research, Behavior of Scientists, Divisions in Science.

·  Chapter 2, Mathematics

Proofs, Statistics, Theory and Modeling, Math in Science, Balance Between Theory and Reality, Relevance of Math, Math as Art, Mathematicians.

·  Chapter 3, Engineering

Mechanical Engineering, Engineering Design, Aeronautical Engineering, Astronautical Engineering, Electrical Enginering, Atomic Power, Computer Science, Transportation, Civil Engineering, Hydraulic Engineering, Irrigation, Flood Control, Life of the Engineer and Scientist, Technological Development.

·  Chapter 4, Man and the Environment

Habitat Destruction, Man’s Impact on the Environment, Travels on the Water, Water Quality, Power of Water, Conservation, Restoration, Power of Nature, Sustainable Development.

·  Chapter 5, Nature

Plants, Forests, Wetlands, Rivers, Oceans, Whales and Dolphins, Animals, Biodiversity.

·  Chapter 6, Teaching Science

Technical Writing, Presentations, Students, Teachers, Teaching Technique, Value of Education, Universities.

·  Chapter 7, The Working Environment

Committees, Planning and Implementation, Human Behavior, Communication, Call to Action, Trust, Pretension, Money and Greed, Common Sense, Odds and Ends.

The quotes range in time from the 20th century B.C.E. to the 20th century C.E., and following many of them, identification, birth dates and death dates, and other information is included to explain the context of the quote, vital facts that are often missing in collections of this type. Whenever possible, the original sources of the quotes are given. Although many of the speakers or writers are scientists or inventors, many are from other professions. Sources are as diverse as Tim Allen, St. Augustine, Augustus Caesar, Aristotle, Milton Berle, Napoleon Bonaparte, Bugs Bunny, George H. W. Bush, Winston Churchill, Cecil B. De Mille, Henry Ford, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Al Gore, Joseph Heller, Adolf Hitler, Thomas Jefferson, Job, John F. Kennedy, D. H. Lawrence, Charles Lindbergh, Mickey Mouse, Leonard Nimoy, George Orwell, George Patton, Ronald Reagan, William Shakespeare, Homer Simpson, Leon Trotsky, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and Malcolm X.

Some amusing chemistry-related quotes are:

Organic chemistry is the chemistry of carbon compounds. Biochemistry is the study of carbon compounds that crawl (Mike Adams).

Remember, if you’re not part of the solution, then you’re part of the precipitate! (Eric Desch).

It is disconcerting to reflect on the number of students we have flunked in chemistry for not knowing what we later found to be untrue (Robert L. Weber).

Sir Humphry Davy

Abominated gravy.

He lived in odium

Of having discovered sodium (Edmund Clerihew Bentley)

[Actually, although he was the first to isolate metallic sodium, the element was known long before him.—GBK].

The book, which is virtually error-free, is replete with 41 illustrations. An unusual feature of this collection is the inclusion of banknotes from various countries with portraits of scientists and inventors such as Albert Einstein (Israel), Erwin Schrödinger (Austria), Jurij Vega (Slovenia), Abu Nasr Al-Farabi (Kazakhstan), Nicolas Copernicus (Poland), Galileo Galilei (Italy), Nikola Tesla (Yugoslavia), Michael Faraday (England), and Guglielmo Marconi (Italy), as well as other pertinent banknotes illustrating material in the text (These images were provided by Joe Redish, whose complete collection of scientists on currency can be viewed at A 3-page list of references, a 16-page list of contextual biographies of the speakers or writers who are quoted, and an 8 double-column-page index, all in small print, add to the usefulness of the volume.

Of all the collections of quotations that I have seen, this is one of the best by virtue of the selection, arrangement, accuracy, references, additional information, index, and other features. I heartily recommend it as useful reference source to scientists, engineers, environmentalists, policy makers, project managers, public relations personnel, teachers, students, writers, speakers, and anyone interested in science or technology.

George B. Kauffman

California State University, Fresno,

S1430-4171(05)02890-6, 10.1333/s00897050890a

Introduction to Machine Learning. by Ethem Alpaydin; published by the MIT Press: Cambridge, Mass. 2004. xxx + 415 pp, hardcover. £32.95 (UK). ISBN 0-262-01211-1.

Until recently, a review of a text on machine learning would be a rarity in a journal read mainly by chemists. However, the influence of computer science now extends throughout the physical sciences and it is of central importance in the analysis of chemical data.

Computer scientists may argue that their field is in itself a science; the name suggests as much. Many chemists though, perhaps feeling slightly parochial, would regard it more as a field that supplies the tools that help the “real” scientists to do their job better. In whatever way one views computer science, there is no doubt that it is yielding an increasingly rich palette of tools for use in scientific analysis. Among the most promising are those that lie in the burgeoning field of machine learning.

Machine learning is at its most productive when we can identify a goal, but do not know how to reach it. The automatic recognition of human speech is such a task. Humans are clearly skilled at understanding speech, but computers have even now only modest abilities. The limited success of computers arises not because, as humans, we are unable to define what we want the computer to do, but because we do not fully understand how we do it ourselves. Identifying promising shares on the stock market or predicting the winner of the Kentucky Derby are similarly challenging, though perhaps more financially rewarding, challenges. There are numerous examples also in science, and chemists are increasingly turning towards machine learning for solutions.

Machine learning provides the tools needed to tackle such intractable problems. Curiously, its methods help us to write computer programs even if we have little idea of how such programs should be constructed. We may even be able to determine the rules that underlie the data and thus help reveal in algebraic form the correlations that exist within. A wide variety of tools within Artificial Intelligence exist, and there are also numerous related techniques within the field of statistics. Alpaydin’s text provides a rapid but informative romp through both types of approach.

A short introductory chapter (16 pages) is followed by a preliminary look at supervised learning, (in which a computer learns by being told the answers to problems, but not how to find them). A group of chapters follows that covers, rapidly but effectively, a range of mathematical techniques of potential value in the analysis of chemical data.

Chapter 3 on Bayesian decision theory introduces Bayesian networks and inference diagrams, while the following chapter, on parametric methods, includes discussion of the Bayes estimator, regression, and maximum likelihood. In chapter 5, Multivariate methods are covered, an area of considerable interest in chemistry. Chapter 6 covers dimensionality reduction while chapter 7 deals with clustering, including k-means clustering, hierarchical clustering, and mixture densities. Nonparametric methods are covered in chapter 8, while decision trees appear in the following chapter and linear discrimination in chapter 10.

The first area that many chemists would associate with machine learning, that of multilayer perceptrons (neural networks) is considered in chapter 11, followed by local models (chapter 12), hidden Markov models (chapter 13) and assessing and comparing classification algorithms (chapter 14). The two final chapters, on combining multiple learners and reinforcement learning, lead into a brief (10-page) appendix that deals with probability.

This is quite a shopping list of topics for a text that runs to little more than 400 pages, especially when each topic is treated with at least a nod at mathematical rigor. The breadth of coverage is both a source of strength and of weakness in the book. There is enough material on almost every relevant topic for the novice reader (albeit, one with some grounding in mathematics) to grasp the fundamentals and, in most cases, to put them into practice. On the other hand, the treatment of each topic is brief; no sooner is one introduced than it is muscled out of the book by another. The number of examples is disappointingly small and most would be of little direct interest to a physical scientist, so to a chemist the text has a rather dry, theoretical feel.

The author, however, does a fine job of surveying the multitude of techniques in the area. If one suspects that k-mean clustering, for example, might be appropriate for the analysis of a particular data set, it is simple to discover the appropriate section and decide whether this technique really is likely to be suitable.

The brevity of the discussion is partly overcome by a list of references at the end of each chapter; however, in view of the year of publication (2004), it is disappointing that nearly all references date from 2000 or earlier. Many references are to quite general papers or books, and, because this type of material dates less rapidly than research papers, a reference to a ten-year-old text is often justified. It is a shame, though, that the author has not been able to introduce a greater number of more recent references to original papers. In chapter 12 for example, the most recent reference dates from 1999 and most of the references date back to the first half of the 1990s or earlier. Similarly, the chapter on Hidden Markov Models, an area of considerable current interest, includes one reference from 2001, while all others are from the 1990s or 1980s.

Most chapters conclude with exercises designed for computer science and engineering students. Many of these exercises are comparatively trivial, but are no less useful for that and are well chosen to help those tackling topics for the first time. They provide an effective means for students to test their understanding of the material in each chapter.

Introduction to Machine Learning is an interesting and lucid text in an area of considerable importance within chemistry. Chemists with only a modest background in mathematics may find parts of the book slightly hard-going, but Alpaydin has done a fine job in balancing a degree of mathematical rigor with the need to produce a book that can form the core of an undergraduate course. Chemists with interests in machine learning or in the clustering and analysis of large data sets will find much to interest them within.

Hugh Cartwright

Chemistry Department, Oxford University, England

S1430-4171(05)02891-5, 10.1333/s00897050891a

Briefwechsel von Emil Fischer mit Svante Arrhenius aus den Jahren 1902 bis 1919: Edition und Kommentierung. Horst Remane and Levi Tansjö, Eds. Acta Historica Leopldina 2000, 33; Deutsche Akademie der Naturforscher Leopoldina: Halle (Saale), 2000. Figures, tables. 116 pp, paperback, 16.9 ´ 23.9 cm. €11.45. Order from Deutsche Akademie der Naturforscher Leopoldina e. V., Postfach 110543, 06108 Halle (Saale), Deutschland (Germany). ISBN 3-8304-5095-8; ISSN 0001-5857.

Letters often provide unique insights into the thoughts and feelings of the writer, and if both letters and replies to them are available, the character of the dialogue between the correspondents is illuminated. Also, if the correspondence is carried on between leading contributors to a particular field of human endeavor, study of the letters is even more valuable. Furthermore, if the letters are exchanged over an extended period of time, they can furnish scholars with an unparalleled, first-hand view of the development and evolution of that field in historical context. Thus it is not surprising that most historians of science and of other disciplines, including this reviewer [1], have catalogued, translated, or edited correspondences. Therefore any addition to this genre is most welcome.

Emil Fischer (1852–1919) [2] was the second scientist to receive the newly established Nobel Prize in Chemistry (The Dutchman Jacobus Henricus van’t Hoff was the first.) Among his pioneering research were his studies of phenylhydrazine and its use in investigating aldehydes and ketones, uric acid and its derivatives, carbohydrates, enzymes, tannins, amino acids, peptides, and proteins, which laid the foundations for biochemistry. He earned the 1902 Nobel award “for his work on sugar and purine syntheses.” He was one of the first representatives of a new breed of scientists who were equally adept in the realms of academe, industry, and government, and his activities in these areas exemplify the role of the modern scientist in his or her relations with technology, government, the national economy, and society [3]. He played a leading role in the founding of the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gesellschaft and the establishment of its world-famed research institutes [4].

During World War I Fischer’s contributions to Germany’s war effort were impressive and varied. As the leading chemist in the Reich, he abandoned much of his chemical research and served as a scientific intermediary between the military bureaucracy and industry and the universities. He was one of the 93 German intellectuals who signed the manifesto “An die Kulturwelt” (“To the Civilized World”), denying the Allied Powers’ charge that Germany had violated Belgian neutrality and provoked the war, a move that he was later to regret. His close friendship with British chemist and 1904 Nobel chemistry laureate Sir William Ramsay (1852–1916) was a casualty of the war [5]. The two were almost the same age, being born only a week apart, they corresponded frequently (Ramsay was fluent in German, and for four decades he was an avid Germanophile.) [1d], and they and their families visited each other’s homes. Fischer lost two of his three sons in the war, emerged from the conflict broken in body and spirit, and he committed suicide on July 15, 1919. All the above events are discussed in the correspondence between Fischer and Arrhenius included in the collection under review.

Fischer’s oldest son, Hermann Otto Laurenz Fischer (1888-1960) survived the war and from 1948 to 1956 served as Professor of Biochemistry at the University of California, Berkeley. In November 1970 his widow donated his papers, which contained 34 boxes of correspondence, to UC, Berkeley’s Bancroft Library, where they were catalogued and made available to interested scholars.

Horst Remane (b. 1941), Professor of the History of Natural Sciences and Technology at the Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg since 1993, is the author of numerous books and articles on chemistry and its history, including a biography of Fischer [2] and an article on Fischer’s correspondence [6]. With the aid of a Leopoldina-Förderpreis he spent the summer of 1993 at the Chemical Heritage Foundation in Philadelphia, PA and the Bancroft Library. At the latter he transcribed and edited the 24 original handwritten (with one exception; No. 11 was typed.) letters from Arrhenius to Fischer for the Briefwechsel. He also made use of the Archiv der Max-Planck-Gesellschaft zur Förderung der Wissenschaften in Berlin.

Svante August Arrhenius (1859–1927) [7] was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1903, the year after Fischer received his prize, “for the services he has rendered to the advancement of chemistry by his electrolytic theory of dissociation,” the first Swede to receive this honor. Bernard Jaffe referred to Nobel laureates Arrhenius, Wilhelm Ostwald (1853–1932), and Jacobus Henricus van’t Hoff (1852–1911) as the three musketeers of the theory of electrolytic dissociation [8]. The youngest member of this triumvirate who founded the new field of physical chemistry did not have an easy time in getting his theory accepted, for it was generally believed that oppositely charged ions could not exist separately in solution. However, his Nobel Prize marked the triumphant conclusion of his battle for the theory.

By the time of the correspondence in this collection he had been appointed in 1895, over strong objections, Professor of Physics at Stockholm’s Högskola (Stockholm Technical University), of which he served as Rector (1895–1902). Although his laboratory was small and poorly equipped, his name attracted many foreign workers who helped spread his ideas over a wider circle. In 1895 he was divorced from his first wife (his former student and assistant) Sophie von Rudbeck (1866–1937). His second marriage in 1905 to Maria (Maja) Johansson (1871–1957), mentioned in the correspondence, resulted in one son and two daughters.

In 1905 the Swedish Academy of Sciences founded the Nobel Institute for Physical Chemistry with Arrhenius as Director, a position that he held until his retirement in 1927. He did little practical work there, but he wrote on whatever problems interested him such as serum therapy; immunochemistry; astronomy; cosmic physics; and the origin of life, the solar system, and the earth’s climatic changes. He speculated on the world’s energy supply and the conservation of natural resources, making him an early prophet of today’s energy crisis. 

Levi Tansjö (1929–2003), late Lecturer Emeritus of Organic Chemistry at Lunds Universitet and a leading contributor to chemistry and the history of science, previously edited Arrhenius’ correspondence with Wilhelm Ostwald [9]. For the preparation of the Briefwechsel reviewed here Tansjö made use of the 23 typed (with three exceptions; letters No. 2, 4, and 17 are handwritten.) letters from Fischer to Arrhenius preserved at the Centrum för Vetenskapshistoria of Kungliga Vetenskapsakademien in Stockholm. He found letter No. 11a, from Fischer to Arrhenius and Otto Pettersson (1848–1941), Professor of Chemistry at Stockholms Högskola, in Riksarkivet in Stockholm.

After a short introduction (pp 7–8) and brief biographies of Arrhenius (pp 9–13) and Fischer (pp 14–16), the dated letters are presented with extensive annotation and footnotes. The correspondence (all in German written in terms of the formal “Sie”) begins with a letter of November 21, 1902 from Arrhenius to Fischer, congratulating him on his receipt of the 1902 Nobel Prize and requesting his portrait, which Fischer sent with his next letter. The correspondence concludes with a letter of May 31, 1919, only 45 days before Fischer’s suicide, from Fischer to Arrhenius thanking him and his Swedish fellow countrymen for their sympathy for poor Germany in its time of great need.

A period of more than seven years intervened between the last pre-war letter (No. 16, Fischer to Arrhenius, July 7, 1907) and the first letter (actually a post card) after the outbreak of hostilities (No. 17, Fischer to Arrhenius, September 3, 1914), in which Fischer asks Arrhenius’ help for Professor Efim Semenovich London of St. Petersburg. Most of the following letters (Nos. 18–46) involve concerns about the war, requests to locate or help prisoners on both sides of the conflict (Sweden was a neutral country.), and postwar problems. Photographs of portraits of Arrhenius and Fischer and four examples of post cards are included.

Following the correspondence (pp 21–76), a section of comments on the edited letters is provided: information about the Nobel Prizes, selection of laureates and a list of the laureates from 1901 to 1919 (pp 77–80); establishment of the Nobel Institute for Physical Chemistry and the role of Friedrich von Althoff (1839–1908) (pp 80–83); Hans von Euler’s appointment to the newly established chair for organic chemistry at Stockholms Högskola (pp 83–84); and international scientific cooperation before and during World War I and Fischer and Arrhenius’ role in it (pp 84–91), including tables of journals, congresses for pure and applied chemistry, and chemical societies. Short biographies of 50 persons mentioned in the edited letters (pp 92–104) are alphabetically arranged from Emil Abderhalden (1877–1950) to Woodrow Wilson (1856–1924) and range in length from one line (Elska Tidy, Sir William Ramsay’s daughter) to 26 lines (Emil Abderhalden). A list of archival sources and a bibliography of published sources (pp 105–113) and an index of persons (3 double-column pages) conclude the volume.

In the case of Arrhenius and Fischer, the correspondents exchanged not only information about each other’s research, developments in chemistry and science, and quotidian scientific issues but also personal messages, advice, philosophical reflections, expressions of general solicitude and friendship, mutual admiration and support, news of other chemists, family news and tragedies, holiday greetings, political opinions, information on the inside workings of academic and institutional life, congratulations for New Years, birthdays, and other occasions, matters of health (The Spanish influenza epidemic of 1918–1919 claimed about 20,000 lives.), deaths of colleagues and relatives, and comments about living conditions and the Zeitgeist then prevailing in Europe. The result is a fascinating and multifaceted portrait of two of chemistry’s most influential and productive luminaries viewed against the milieu in which they lived and worked. Remane and Tansjö deserve our thanks for chronicling Fischer and Arrhenius’ interactions and achievements in a volume that will be of great value to historians of chemistry and of science and to chemists interested in the history of their discipline.

References and Notes

1.       Kauffman, G. B. (a) Perepiska D. I. Mendeleeva s Khimikami S.Sh.A. (Correspondence of D.I. Mendeleev with Chemists of the U.S.A.), Voprosy Istorii Estestvoznaniya i Tekhniki, Akademiia Nauk S.S.S.R. 1969, 4 (29), 118–121; (b) The Reception of Mendeleev's Ideas in the United States and Mendeleev's Correspondence with American Scientists. Archives Internationales d'Histoire des Sciences, 1970, 23 (9–10), 87–106; (c) Christian Wilhelm Blomstrand (1826–1897) and Sophus Mads Jørgensen (1837–1914): Their Correspondence from 1870 to 1897. Centaurus, 1977, 21 (1), 44–63; (d) Kauffman, G. B.; Priebe, P. M. Emil Fischer (1852–1919)—William Ramsay (1852–1916): Their Correspondence from 1892 to 1914. Archives Internationales d'Histoire des Sciences 1980, 30, 137–161.

2.       Remane, H. Emil Fischer; Biographien hervorragender Naturwissenchaftler, Techniker und Mediziner, Vol. 74; BSB B. G. Teubner Verlagsgesellschaft: Leipzig, 1982.

3.       Kauffman, G. B. Emil Fischer: His Role in Wilhelmian German Industry, Scientific Institutions, and Government. J. Chem. Educ. 1984, 61, 504–506.

4.       Kauffman, G. B.; Priebe, P. M. Emil Fischer's Role in the Founding of the Kaiser Wilhelm Society. J. Chem. Educ. 1989, 66, 394–400.

5.       Kauffman, G. B.; Priebe, P. M. The Emil Fischer—William Ramsay Friendship: The Tragedy of Scientists in War. J. Chem. Educ. 1990, 67, 93–101.

6.       Remane, H. Briefe als wissenschaftliche Quelle: Der Briefwechsel des Nobelpreisträgers für Chemie Emil Fischer (1852–1919). Nova Acta Leopoldina 1996, Supplementum No. 14, 15–29.

7.       Kauffman, G. B. Svante August Arrhenius, Swedish Pioneer in Physical Chemistry. J. Chem. Educ. 1988, 65, 437–438; Svante August Arrhenius (1859–1927). In Macmillan Encyclopedia of Chemistry; Lagowski, J. J., Ed.; Macmillan Reference USA: New York, 1997; Vol. 1, pp 170–171.

8.       Jaffe, B. Crucibles: The Story of Chemistry, from Ancient Alchemy to Nuclear Fission, 4th ed.; Dover Publications: New York, 1976; pp 164–180.

9.       Hansel, K.; Tansjö, L., Eds. Svante Arrhenius und Wilhelm Ostwald in ihren Briefen. In Mitteilungen der Wilhelm-Ostwald-Gesellschaft zu Großbothen e. V., Sonderheft. Großbothen: Vorstand der Wilhelm-Ostwald-Gesellschaft zu Großbothen e. V. 2002 (167 pp). An obituary-tribute devoted to Tansjö appears in Kauffman, G. B.; Remame, H.; Sandström, J. Chem. Educator 2005, 10 (2), 145–150; DOI 10.1333/s00897050898a

George B. Kauffman

California State University, Fresno,

S1430-4171(05)02894-2, 10.1333/s00897050894a