A quick note on some recent additions to our bookshelves, including a significant donation to our resources on the development of chemistry, some new histories and biographies you can borrow from our loan collections, and a book by one of our Fellows on the science of sport.
First of all, our grateful thanks to Sir John Rowlinson FRS, chemist and former Physical Secretary of the Royal Society, for donating more than 150 books from his private library to bolster the Royal Society’s printed resources in the history of physical chemistry. John’s donation, handed to us in October last year, has now been fully catalogued, greatly improving our holdings relating to theories of thermodynamics, heat and entropy formulated in the 19th century, including the work of Clausius, van der Waals and Maxwell. Twentieth-century giants such as Schrödinger and Gilbert Newton Lewis are also well represented. One of John’s hobbies is reflected in the gift of some lovely Victorian guides to the Alps by John Ball FRS, the first president of the Alpine Club, and biographical material on J Norman Collie FRS, mountaineer and chemist.
Cataloguing the collection was a bit of a challenge, as a large percentage of the scientific books are in French, German or Dutch. Classifying them also brought home to me my rather hazy knowledge of the boundary between physical chemistry and chemical physics – and, as someone with an undergraduate physics degree, I had to make sure I didn’t edge everything into the Dewey 530s rather than 540s (sorry, librarian shop-talk!). A selective listing of John’s generous donation can be found here.
Moving to books rather less academic (but slightly easier to catalogue), we’ve recently added the shortlisted books from the 2011 and 2012 Royal Society Young People’s Book Prize. I’m particularly pleased to see ‘The Icky, Sticky Snot and Blood Book’ on our shelves, as its predecessor, ‘The Gooey, Chewy, Rumble, Plop Book’ provided me with many happy hours of bedtime reading when my children were younger and grosser.
In terms of grown-up books on the history of science and the lives of scientists, we’ve received, among other recent gifts: a new biography of Rosalind Franklin by her sister, Jenifer Glynn; a book on the Great Melbourne Telescope (above) and the Royal Society’s role in its tangled history; and a highly topical discussion of the Higgs Force; all of which are available for loan to our registered Library ID card holders. Our Fellows have been busy producing new popular science books: Ian Stewart has given us ‘In Pursuit of the Unknown’, looking at 17 famous equations from the Pythagorean theorem onwards; Frances Ashcroft’s latest is entitled ‘The Spark of Life: Electricity in the Human Body’; and John D Barrow has come up with ‘100 Essential Things You Didn’t Know You Didn’t Know About Sport’, including chapters with intriguing titles such as ‘The Equitempered Triathlon’, ‘The Cat Paradox’ and ‘Fancy Kit: Does it Help?’
While these last two books are classed as part of our downstairs Dewey room and therefore not ‘officially’ part of our loan collections, we’re always happy to pop a barcode in the front of our modern science books and loan them out to you if you ask us nicely. So do pop in to the Library soon, whether to borrow books – here’s a full list of the recent additions – or to donate your own (always gratefully received). The Olympics don’t appear to be making access to the Library too tricky, touch wood, so it’s book business as usual!