As with books like Asimov’s Biographical Encyclopedia of Science and Technology, this is not a book to read. (Yes, yes. It’s not even a book. I know, I know.) It’s a huge, laminated wall-chart, about two feet by six listing the main achievements in chemistry by year from the earliest times through the 1980’s, peaking in the 1950’s. It would be excellent to hang up in a high school biology classroom—it’s even got a half-dozen or so funny pictures and a very nice periodic table that goes up through element 109 and includes the humongous Latin names that have become official for the last half-dozen elements discovered.

Inasmuch, however, as it just lists year/discoverer/discovery, it conveys surprisingly little information and has absolutely no narrative flow or structure (part of its unreadability). A book like A Short History of Chemistry would do better so far as that goes.

There is, however, a major reason for not enjoying it as a read, and that is the physical difficulties involved. Assuming one doesn’t actually hang it on a wall, one has to spread it out or roll up one end while you unroll the other. This last, of course, is exactly the way that books were read in antiquity, and it is because of the difficulty involved that people invented codexes, the modern-type of book.

This “book” is the last of three wall-charts Asimov prepared for Carolina Biological Supply, the other two being The History of Biology and The History of Mathematics. This one was published after Asimov produced the catalog of books for I. Asimov and so is not listed there.

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