Gateway to the Classics: The Wonder Book of Chemistry by Jean Henri Fabre
The Wonder Book of Chemistry by  Jean Henri Fabre

Front Matter

[Front Cover]


[Title Page]

[Copyright Page]

Translator's Preface

"What is the use of a book without pictures or conversations?" asks Alice, disgustedly, just before taking her departure for Wonderland, where she finds no lack of animated discourse.

This book, like its predecessors in the series, is conversational in form and has as many pictures as the subject-matter calls for.

All boys and some girls, as well as their elders, take more or less interest in the marvels of chemistry. To give an elementary but useful knowledge of these marvels, chiefly by means of simple experiments clearly described by the writer and easily performed at home by any wide-awake young reader, is the object of the following talks by "Uncle Paul."

The personal, biographical interest of the book is not to be overlooked. The boys Jules and Emile are the author's own children, faithfully portrayed even to the names they bear. In his captivating fashion the man of vast learning makes himself at once teacher and comrade to his young hearers, and we learn that "his chemistry lessons especially had a great success. With apparatus of his own devising and of the simplest kind he could perform a host of elementary experiments, the apparatus as a rule consisting of the most ordinary materials, such as a common flask or bottle, an old mustard-pot, a tumbler, a goose-quill or a pipe-stem. A series of astonishing phenomena amazed their wondering eyes. He made them see, touch, taste, handle, and smell, and always 'the hand assisted the word,' always `the example accompanied the precept,' for no one more fully valued the profound maxim, so neglected and misunderstood, that ‘to see is to know.' " Though living creatures necessarily claimed the naturalist's first affections, he none the less "animates even the simple elementary bodies, celebrating the marvelous activities of the air, the violence of chlorin, the metamorphoses of carbon, the miraculous bridals of phosphorus, and the ‘splendors which accompany the birth of a drop of water.' "

Concerning the eager young pupils, Jules and Emile, by this time well known to all readers of the series, a still further word may not be out of place. Emile, the younger, the "giddy-pate" of the narrative, impulsive and full of boyish curiosity and vigorous young life, is drawn for us with fidelity and a delightful touch of humor by the loving father. Jules is shown to us as more sedate and gifted with finer qualities, and with his grief-stricken parent we mourn his early death. "He was a youth of great promise, 'all fire, all flame'; of a serious nature; an exquisite being, of a precocious intelligence, whose rare aptitudes both for science and literature were truly extraordinary. Such too was the subtlety of his senses that by handling no matter what plant, with his eyes closed, he could recognize and define it merely by the sense of touch. This delightful companion of his father's studies had scarcely passed his fifteenth year when death removed him. A terrible void was left in his heart, which was never filled. Thirty years later the least allusion to this child, however tactful, which recalled this dear memory to his mind, would wring his heart, and his whole body would be shaken by his sobs." In a memorial foreward to the second volume of his "Souvenirs Entomologiques" the bereaved father pays loving tribute to this lost son and fellow-worker.

Thus it is said that the following chapters will be found to have a human and personal appeal to supplement their scientific interest. May they yield both pleasure and profit to their readers!

[Contents Page 1 of 2]

[Contents Page 2 of 2]


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