Declan Fleming reviews the fifth volume

Chemical demonstrations: a handbook for teachers of chemistry (volume 5)
Bassam Shakhashiri
Wisconsin, US: University of Wisconsin Press 2011 | Pp323 | £39.50 (HB) | ISBN9780299226503
Reviewed by Declan Fleming

Cover of Chemical demonstrations: a handbook for teachers of chemistry (vol 5)

Source: University of Wisconsin Press

Shakhashiri is a living legend of chemistry demonstrations. He is a masterful demonstrator and begins this volume by once again stressing the pedagogical requirement to have a detailed explanation for the phenomena his demonstrations display. The volume is devoted mainly to colour and light so it is with this in mind that the following 84 pages contain a pleasingly complete yet concise discussion of the properties of light and chemical reactions. The book is worth the price alone for this introduction section which would make for an excellent primer.

There is still room for over 200 pages of demonstrations. or so you might think! Whilst there is much that is new in this volume, one should remember this book is not to be read in isolation. Many pages refer back to previous volumes for descriptions of the demonstrations contained within, so a glance at the contents or index would be misleading. This is probably not the book with which to start your Shakashiri collection.

Each demonstration follows the same format as previous volumes with an introduction, required materials, procedure, hazards, disposal, discussion and references. It should be noted that although Shakashiri gives sound advice on hazard mitigation, his demonstrations are not all legal in the UK and if there is any doubt you should check before trying a new experiment.

If you were expecting a book packed from cover to cover with 'chemical demonstrations', you may be left wanting. Many of the demonstrations within focus more on perception (eg optical illusions, finding the blind spot, colour fatigue etc). The full capacity of the colour print has also not been realised. There are no more images of the demonstrations being performed than you would find in the previous volumes, so have a thumb through a copy before you commit to buy.

Having said that, the package as a whole is a pleasure to own and you can't review volume five in isolation from the rest of the work which remains unmatched in its scale and quality and is an essential addition to any chemistry department's collection.

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