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Historical chemistry library wows scholars

6:44pm, May 11, 2004

The Chemical Heritage Foundation in Philadelphia has acquired one of the most extensive and valuable collections of chemistry texts in the world. It was bought from private collector Robert Neville, now a retired chemist in California, who began amassing rare chemistry volumes as an undergraduate student 60 years ago. The collection has since grown to include more than 6,000 works spanning 6 centuries.

Aside from the historical holdings of the British Museum in London, "I can't think of anything else that compares with this collection," says Lawrence Principe, a chemistry historian at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

Some of the most important volumes include The Sceptical Chymist (1661) in which Robert Boyle defines the term element, Antoine Lavoisier's Traité Élémentaire de Chimie (1789), which gave rise to modern chemistry, and Dmitri Mendeleev's 1856 master's thesis from the University of St. Petersburg in Russia

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