The Role of Chemistry in History

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About the Site

April 23rd, 2008 · No Comments ·

“Most of us never give a thought to the history or nature of spices or rubber or nicotine or penicillin or a score of other things – chemicals – that have changed the world…” -Oliver Sacks

clip_image001.jpg“The idea that momentous events may depend on something as small as a molecule – a group of two or more atoms held together in a definite arrangement – offers a novel approach to understanding the growth of human civilization. A change as small as the position of a bond – the link between atoms in a molecule – can lead to enormous differences in properties of a substance and in turn can influence the course of history.”

-from “Napoleon’s Buttons”

Professor Samet’s course, titled Chemistry 111: Role of Chemistry in History, is designed for non-science majors. The focal point of the course is a wonderful book titled “Napoleon’s Buttons: How 17 Molecules Changed History (Penny Le Couteur and Jay Burreson; Penguin Putnam Inc., New York, 2003).”

The goal of the course is to compile our own book, with each student contributing a chapter that focuses on a specific molecule. This website, created by the Spring 2008 class, serves as our molecule museum, and we welcome you to visit!

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