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Physical Chemistry: A Very Short Introduction

Physical Chemistry Book CoverBy Peter Atkins
Review by Halima (Chemistry)

In sixth form, I was naturally more drawn to physical chemistry than the other two branches (organic and inorganic). Physical seemed a lot more mathematically focused and seemed to involve interesting applications of Maths A-Level, which I was also studying. That said, trying to look for accessible physical chemistry resources at 16 was a fairly difficult task! A lot of books on the subject out there seemed heavy and too confusing to start to comprehend. However, a chance visit to a local bookshop in Year 12 introduced me to Atkins’ Physical Chemistry: A Very Short Introduction.

At just over 100 pages long, it was the ideal book to have on the go (and was also a perfect size book for someone who didn’t have a lot of free time to read for pleasure in sixth form). The book introduces a wide range of topics in physical chemistry, from the structures of atoms and the concepts of orbitals to thermodynamics and states of matter, and it helped recap and build upon the content I was learning in the classroom. It’s focused on matter — physical chemistry deals with the properties of matter —and explains how the structure of matter on a tiny scale affects how it behaves on a scale visible to us. I found the section on spectroscopy fascinating; the notion that chemists can use lasers to probe the structures of molecules seemed incredibly cool!

It’s written in a very approachable fashion (with minimal scientific jargon), and the many clear and interesting diagrams and graphics help to illustrate the more abstract concepts within the text. It’s written almost like a documentary; the author is guiding you through the content, rather than leaving you to grapple with it yourself. Physical chemistry is quite maths-heavy, but for those less mathematically inclined, don’t worry! The maths used in this book is negligible, and next to no mathematical knowledge is needed to appreciate the content of the book.

As the title suggests, this book is a brilliant introduction to some of the concepts of physical chemistry that are frequently met in your first year of a Chemistry degree. I would highly recommend reading it for anyone wanting to study chemistry (or, indeed, any other mathematical science)!

Physical Chemistry: A Very Short Introduction By Peter Atkins
ISBN-10 : 9780199689095
ISBN-13 : 978-0199689095

Try checking the availability of this book at your school or local library or explore second hand bookshops and websites. You may also wish to purchase from either Amazon or Blackwell’s.

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