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Running out of time to write the textbook


My writing style for Chemistry of the Elements
Norman Greenwood Scientist
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I then started, as always, the way I write, is to start at the beginning, to go on until I come to the end and then stop, as Lewis Carroll said. And that’s the way I always write, if I’m writing a lecture or a textbook or a monograph on something, a thesis when I was an undergraduate, graduate student. I have a plan of course – I knew the sequence of the elements – I start at the beginning and I just keep on writing.

Some chapters are longer than others, I have to keep a balance of course, but that then brings me on to another theme, which makes the book perhaps unusual. And that is, as I briefly mentioned, the chemicals that we’re talking about may be unique because they’re theoretically important or because they’re just beautiful or surprising or they may be useful.

So I was able to weave in, and I had what I call panels, coloured bits, inserts, which were the uses of the elements perhaps, or where they came from, or side effects, an aside, like the Oklo phenomenon that we were talking about, that would be one such panel, which is not the main stream but is an interesting thing.

In fact my secretary, who was typing this at one stage, working back evenings and so forth, once said, they’re the most interesting part of the book, I don’t understand the other rubbish, but I like reading this. And that was from a non-scientist.

Norman Greenwood (1925-2012) was born in Australia and graduated from Melbourne University before going to Cambridge. His wide-ranging research in inorganic and structural chemistry made major advances in the chemistry of boron hydrides and other main-group element compounds. He also pioneered the application of Mössbauer spectroscopy to problems in chemistry. He was a prolific writer and inspirational lecturer on chemical and educational themes, and held numerous visiting professorships throughout the world.

Listeners: Brian Johnson

Professor Brian FG Johnson FRS, FRSE, FRS Chem, FAcad Eu, FAS. Professor of Inorganic Chemistry University of Edinburgh 1991-1995, Professor of Inorganic Chemistry University of Cambridge 1995-2005, Master Fitzwilliam College Cambridge 1999-2005. Research interests include studies of transition metal carbonyls, organometallic chemistry, nano- particles and homogeneous catalysis. Professor Johnson is the author of over 1000 research articles and papers.

Tags: Chemistry of the Elements, Oklo, Lewis Carroll

Duration: 1 minute, 48 seconds

Date story recorded: May 2011

Date story went live: 25 November 2011