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Yusuf Hamied Department of Chemistry


Image of Dr Peter Wothers courtesy Cambridge University Library

'Hydrogen Pistols at Dawn', a look at the 18th century texts that prompted a revolution in chemistry, is one of the Sandars Lectures Dr Peter Wothers will deliver this week.

Dr Wothers, a Teaching Fellow here in the department, will also be revealing some of the earliest books written by women chemists working before Marie Curie. And he'll be looking at some of the books written for younger audiences over time - and the dangerous experiments they encouraged their readers to try out!

The three Sandars Lectures, collectively titled "Chemical Attractions", are open to all. They will take place on 6, 7 and 8 March at St Catharine's College Cambridge. 

Dr Wothers will talk about how a young teenager (possibly himself?) became addicted to collecting antique books on chemistry 30 years ago, and will show some of the very first 'rare' books purchased.

Dr Wothers will look at some of the key scientific texts written in the 18th century when an understanding of air and the different gases it contains prompted a revolution in chemistry. He will include works by such leading figures as Cavendish, Priestley, Scheele and Lavoisier. The lecture will include a couple of explosive chemical demonstrations!

Dr Wothers will reveal some of the earliest books written by women chemists working prior to Madame Curie. These will include An Essay on Combustion by Elizabeth Fulhame in 1794, and Jane Marcet’s influential (and delightful) series of Conversations on Chemistry. Published between 1806 and 1853, these are informal conversations between between teacher Mrs Bryan and her two young students, Caroline and Emily.

About Dr Wothers

Dr Peter Wothers is a Teaching Fellow here in the department. You can see him in action, giving one of his explosive demonstration lectures - 'It's a Gas' - at our Chemistry Open Day on Saturday 17th March 2018.

About the Sandars Lectures

The Sandars lecture series was initiated by Mr Samuel Sanders in 1895, who bequeathed £2,000 to the University saying: "It is my wish....that the lectures be based on and be illustrated by examples contained in the University Library or the College Libraries at Cambridge." The lectures are open to all (with seating on a first-come, first-served basis) and take place in the McGrath Centre at St Catharine’s College from 5 - 6pm, followed by a drinks reception in the college. Booking is not required, but guests are requested to arrive on time.

This article was adapted from information about the 2018 Sandars Lectures on the Cambridge University Library website