Submitted by Joanne Stewart / Hope College on Thu, 11/04/2010 - 10:25
Our library recently inherited the many-volumed Gmelin Handbook of Inorganic Chemistry. I have to admit that I am relatively unfamiliar with this resource. The library has determined that there are "a couple ways" to organize it, and I have been asked to provide some intellectual guidance (pah). I've found some resources about this (, but I'm seeking input from those of you out there who might be able to provide some more direct insight. Thank you!
Adam Johnson / Harvey Mudd College
My name is Adam Johnson, I have been an inorganic chemist for 17 years, and I have never used Gmelin.  I'm ready to begin my 12-step program.  The first step is admitting you have a problem.
Thu, 11/04/2010 - 11:41 Permalink
Chip Nataro / Lafayette College
It has been a while since I had to dig through Gmelin. My memory is that it was all arranged by element. My guess is it doesn't matter. There is no chance students will ever look at it because it isn't online. And if you aren't likely to use it either, well, who else would? I say have some fun with it. Perhaps increasing number of pages in the volume or thickness of dust.
Thu, 11/04/2010 - 14:27 Permalink
Nancy Williams / Scripps College, Pitzer College, Claremont McKenna College

Gmelin was one of those "everything we know about this subject" compendia that jumped the shark in the 1930's when Linus Pauling wrote, "The Nature of the Chemical Bond". It suffered the fate of all broken ontologies--"How do you reorganize something when its existing (archaic) organization is baked into the cake, and can't be undone?" becomes an unanswerable question.

Organization by element is probably the best one can do with Gmelin, not that it makes any sense...(anyone here work with compounds containing 2 or more elements?), but that's the organization that matches its internal structure. 

Online versions are party cured of this because of the nature of the link-you don't have to undo an old ontology to build a new one-you just build new links. Despite that, it's a fossil. It was useless 20 years ago when I last used it.

 It can also be used as toilet paper in the event of an emergency that isolates the college from the outside world.


Fri, 11/05/2010 - 10:28 Permalink
Joanne Stewart / Hope College
Thanks for your insight, everyone. I met with our reference librarian and we opened a few boxes to admire. It really is a pretty amazing resource and I do not see any way we will ever use it. Actually, one of our gen ed instructors used to have students do an element report. It would be interesting to watch them try to drink from the Gmelin fire hose. Of course, they better not choose tungsten because they'll never find it (hint: it's under W).
Fri, 11/19/2010 - 15:47 Permalink
Adam Johnson / Harvey Mudd College
a lot of the old german literature lists iodine under "J" too; I used to call it "Jie-o-dine" for fun.
Sun, 11/21/2010 - 16:56 Permalink