Article ID: CBB000774432

A Disciplinary Immigrant: Alexander Smith at the University of Chicago, 1894--1911 (2008)


The publication in 1906 of Alexander Smith's Introduction to general inorganic chemistry inaugurated a decisive change in chemical pedagogy in the US, the effects of which are still evident. The nature and extent of Smith's innovations are described through a comparison of his text to its source material and contemporaries. His authoritative command of and whole-hearted commitment to the intellectual framework of Ionist physical chemistry set his text apart from its American competitors, while his efforts to make the tools of physical chemistry immediately useful to his readers distinguished it from its most immediate source material, Wilhelm Ostwald's Grundlinien der anorganischen Chemie. Smith's curricular innovations in chemistry were a practical expression of his radically restrictive view of the social role of collegiate education, which he conceived as solely of use for its ability to prepare students for professional life. During the fifteen years prior to the publication of his groundbreaking textbook, Smith underwent two critical, formative experiences. First, he retreated intellectually from the structural organic chemistry in which he was trained, ultimately adopting a professional identity as a physical inorganic chemist. His involvement in the controversy regarding the structure of 1,3-diketones reveals much about his reasons for eventually abandoning organic chemistry. Second, he served the National Education Association as chairman of the Sub-committee on College Entrance Requirements in Chemistry, in the process making a close study of the ends and methods of secondary and collegiate education. These experiences made him unique among proponents of physical chemistry in the US, and help account for the unique nature of his contributions to the development of the chemical professions.


Description On Smith's work on organic and physical chemistry, leading up to the publication of his 1906 textbook.

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Authors & Contributors
José Otavio Baldinato
Manuel DeLanda
Raissa Martins Idalgo e Silva
Zott, Regine
Watanabe, Yoshiaki
Toshev, B. V.
Science and Education
Dahlemer Archivgespräche
Bulletin for the History of Chemistry
Substantia: An International Journal of the History of Chemistry
Ziran Kexueshi Yanjiu (Studies in the History of Natural Sciences)
Osmanli Bilimi Arastirmalari: Studies in Ottoman Science
Bloomsbury Academic
Archives contemporaines
University of Toronto
Science education and teaching
Physical chemistry
Philosophy of science
Hoff, Jacobus Henricus van't
Dewey, John
Wald, Franz
Proust, Joseph Louis
Parkes, Samuel
Ostwald, Friedrich Wilhelm
Time Periods
19th century
20th century, early
18th century
United Kingdom
Istanbul (Turkey)
Cracow (Poland)
Prague (Czechia)
United States
Mekteb-i Harbiye (War school) (Istanbul, Turkey)
University of Chicago

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