5 Apr 2008

Oliver Sacks: Uncle Tungsten

Textbook

Submitted by Joanne Stewart, Hope College
Description: 

"In late 1997, Roald Hoffmann sent Oliver Sacks a large illustrated poster of the periodic table, a chemical catalog, and a small bar of tungsten. The contents of that unusual parcel rekindled in Sacks a love affair that had been dormant for 50 years--a love affair with chemistry." (A. Truman Schwartz, J.Chem.Ed. 79, 2002)

As the weather warms and the days lengthen, it is time for some pleasure reading! Oliver Sacks, a well-respected neurologist who is best known for his book "The Man who Mistook his Wife for a Hat," was fascinated by chemistry as a young boy. In his autobiography, "Uncle Tungsten," Sacks writes about his boyhood and his chemical adventures growing up in England during war time. The book serves as a wonderful survey of the elements and inspiration for learning about inorganic chemistry.

Implementation Notes: 

I have used this in a Junior/Senior inorganic class with good success. We read it throughout the semester and each student was responsible for 1) posting a brief chapter summary to the course web site, 2) drawing connections between the book and what we were learning in class, and 3) writing one text question connected to their chapter (could be chemistry or could be more philosophical).

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