The more things change ...

... the more they stay the same.

While this may be true in a lot of cases, it is not true when it comes to chemistry sets.

I find modern chemistry sets astonishingly dull and safe. There is no glassware to be found. No glass test tubes, no glass tubing, not even an alcohol lamp. When I had my first chemistry set, of some 30+ years ago, it came with glass tubes I was expected to heat up and bend or to draw into fine tipped pipettes.

The chemicals found in chemistry sets today are bland. No more dangerous than baking powder - maybe less so.

Kids love foul smelling gases, bubbling / frothing concoctions, colour changes and, of course, flames and explosions.

The two pages are reproduced from my favourite children's chemistry book titled The Golden Book of Chemistry Experiments. They are from the second printing in 1962. These experiments would never get into a modern children's chemistry book (I know because I have a bunch). I tried to make chloroform, but I don't think I was successful, all I ever smelled was the bleach. Though, I was able to make ethyl acetate. Never tried to make rayon.

Scans provided by me. Copyright 1960 by Golden Press.


b said…
They took all the fun out of it, didn't they? :)
Annelisa said…
You're absolutely right - I'm betting the chemistry lessons at school aren't what they used to be either. I know the teachers do a lot of the more 'dangerous' demos, just as they did when I was at school, but I don't think the kids get a chance to do any of this sort of thing you show here (I'd love to make chloroform :-)
Barbara said…
I loved my chemistry set. It was one of the best present I ever received.
Guess you'll just have to make a chemistry set for your kids! (And supervise them!)I never had one, but we liked to muck around and make potions and gunky stuff out of the most amazing things.
ghee said…
ugh,i hate chemistry,Richard... :D
Richard said…
breal: not enirely, modern chemistry books to have a recipe for a silly putty like compound you can make using white glue and borax

annelisa: You can try to make chloroform based on the instructions from the science book. Or, you can search the web for instructions. It seems a fairly large number of people ar einterested in doing just that sinc EI have had 6 hits so far from people googling how to make chloroform

barbara: there is no question the older ones were much better than the newer ones. Mind you, perhaps the kids learn just as much without poisoning themselves (we did learn something from our chemistry sets right? Or did we run to burn that strip of magnesium ASAP?)

MOI: the kids love to muck about. Whether it is playing with water, or trying to cook. Many a time have I cleaned up after them.

ghee: chemistry is great ghee, it was my favourite when I was a kid. I even considered studying chemical engineering, but decided against it because the only jobs I could see were for pulp and paper mills - not exactly exciting for me. I ended up studying electronics instead.

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