Brain Pickings

How Chemistry Works: Gorgeous Vintage Science Diagrams, 1854


Illustrated retro reactions from the father of Popular Science.

Edward Livingston Youmans (1821-1887), best-remembered as the founder of Popular Science magazine, was one of history’s greatest science writers and editors. Besides pioneering what Richard Feynman has termed “the role of scientific culture in modern society” with his journalistic endeavors, Youmans also authored a number of beautifully illustrated textbooks, including Chemical Atlas: Or, The Chemistry of Familiar Objects. Originally published in 1854, the book is in the public domain but is sadly long out of print. A digital version is available in multiple formats from The Internet Archive, and it has been reproduced in hard-copy, alas without the artwork. Many of the individual illustrations are available as prints. (Click each image for the poster version.)

Youmans writes in the introduction:

Every experienced teacher understands the necessity of making the acquisition of the elementary and foundation principles upon which a science rests, the first business of study. If these are thoroughly mastered, subsequent progress is easy and certain.

Complement with some gorgeous vintage science ads, anatomical illustrations, and science infographics.

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