Paul Yates reviews this textbook for undergraduate chemists
The chemistry maths book (2nd edn)
Oxford: OUP 2008 | Pp668 | £28.99 | ISBN 978 019 920 535 6
According to the publisher, this book is suitable for undergraduate chemists at all levels. In the preface, Steiner states that 'it has been designed as a textbook for courses in "mathematics for chemists"' and that 'the subject is developed with few assumptions made of prior knowledge of mathematics'. Nevertheless, the treatment of the subject is rather more extensive in scope than that of many competing texts. This is reflected by its length and price.
All of the usual basic mathematical topics are covered, as might be expected, but there is some advanced material that is less commonly found. This includes the orthogonal transformations of matrices and the Frobenius method for solving second-order differential equations.
Chemical applications of the mathematics appear frequently, though in some cases I felt that the examples strayed too far into the realms of physics. For example, electric circuits are used to illustrate the application of first-order differential equations. Footnotes are used to describe the historical development of the mathematics, but whether these will be of interest to the average chemistry student is questionable.
There is a good range of questions for students to work through at the end of each chapter, though the chemical content of these is sometimes sparse. As is usual for such a text, answers are provided at the end of the book. A full set of worked solutions is also available on the accompanying website in PDF format.
Despite the claims made for potential readership, I would regard this book as being more suitable for those students who start their chemistry degree with a good A-level in mathematics. The text may also be useful to PhD students who require a detailed understanding of a particular area of mathematics.