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List of important publications in chemistry

This is a list of important publications in chemistry, organized by field.

Some reasons why a particular publication might be regarded as important:

  • Topic creator – A publication that created a new topic
  • Breakthrough – A publication that changed scientific knowledge significantly
  • Introduction – A publication that is a good introduction or survey of a topic
  • Influence – A publication which has significantly influenced the world
  • Latest and greatest – The current most advanced result in a topic

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The Sceptical Chymist

Description: Boyle, in the form of a dialogue, argued that chemical theories should be firmly grounded in experiment before their acceptance, and for the foundation of Chemistry as a science separate to Medicine and Alchemy.

Importance: Topic Creator, Influence. Boyle, in this book, became the first to argue that experiment should form the basis of all theory, a common practice in Chemistry today. He also expounded on a rudimentary atomic theory and the existence of chemical elements beyond the classic earth, fire, air, and water.[1] He is seen as the father of chemistry,[2] and this is his most celebrated book.[3]

Traité Élémentaire de Chimie (Elementary Treatise of Chemistry)

  • Antoine Lavoisier
  • Traité Élémentaire de Chimie, 1789, available in English as Elementary Treatise of Chemistry

Description: This book was intended as an introduction to new theories in Chemistry and as such, was one of the first Chemistry textbooks.[4]

Importance: Introduction, Influence. Aside from being one of the first Chemistry textbooks, the book was one of the first to state the Law of conservation of mass, define a chemical element, and contain a list of known elements.[5]

Méthode de Nomenclature Chimique

  • Guyton de Morveau, L. B.; Lavoisier, A. L.; Berthollet, C. L.; de Fourcroy, A. F.
  • Méthode de Nomenclature Chimique, Paris, 1787, available in English as Chymical Nomenclature.
  • Some details and a picture available at IUPAC nomenclature#History

Description: This publication laid out a logical system for naming chemical substances (mainly chemical elements and inorganic compounds) in a logical way.

Importance: Prior to this publication, a multitude of names were often used for the same substance. This publication led to an international consensus on how to name chemical substances.

A New System of Chemical Philosophy

Description: This book explained Dalton's theory of atoms and its applications to Chemistry.

Importance: Topic Creator, Breakthrough, Influence. The book was one of the first to describe a modern atomic theory, a theory that lies at the basis of modern Chemistry. Surprisingly, given the period in which the book was written, of the five properties of atoms that Dalton listed, only two have been shown to be incorrect.

The Dependence Between the Properties of the Atomic Weights of the Elements

Description: In this paper the periodic table was introduced. Notice that the table in the above link is the original one. Since then the table structure was slightly changed and new elements were added to it.

Importance: Topic creator, Breakthrough, Influence

Organic chemistry

Science of Synthesis: Houben-Weyl Methods of Molecular Transformations

  • D. Bellus, E. N. Jacobsen, S. V. Ley, R. Noyori, M. Regitz, P. J. Reider, E. Schaumann, I. Shinkai, E. J. Thomas, B. M. Trost
  • Thieme: Stuttgart, 48 volumes, 2000 - 2009 (print and electronic version available)

Description: Contains synthetic models selected by world-renowned experts, with full experimental procedures and background information. Considers methods from journals, books, and patent literature from the early 1800s up to the present day and presents important synthetic methods for all classes of compounds. Critically evaluates the preparative applicability and significance of the synthetic methods.

Importance: Introduction, Reference

March's Advanced Organic Chemistry: Reactions, Mechanisms, and Structure

  • Michael B. Smith, Jerry March
  • Wiley-Interscience, 5th edition, 2001, ISBN 0-471-58589-0
  • Wiley-Interscience, 6th edition, 2007, ISBN 978-0-471-72091-1

Description: A comprehensive reference for organic chemistry with over 25,000 references.

Importance: Introduction, Reference.[6]

The Logic of Chemical Synthesis

Description: Describes the logic underlying the rational design of complex organic synthesis.

Importance: Breakthrough, Influence

Protective Groups in Organic Synthesis

  • Theodora W. Greene, Peter G. M. Wuts
  • Wiley-Interscience, 3rd edition, 1999, ISBN 0-471-16019-9

Description: A comprehensive reference for the usage of protecting groups in organic synthesis.

Importance: Introduction, Reference

Comprehensive Organic Transformations

  • Richard C. Larock
  • Wiley-VCH
  • 1st edition:
  • 2nd edition: 1999, ISBN 0-471-19031-4

Description: A standard reference for the practicing organic chemist. These books are just enormous lists of key references indexed by functional group transformations.

Importance: Introduction, Reference

Inorganic chemistry

Chemical Applications of Group Theory

Description: The group theory book for chemists.

Importance: Significant influence by introducing group theory to a much wider group of chemists.

Advanced Inorganic Chemistry

Description: A classic general textbook for an undergraduate course in inorganic chemistry.

Importance: This book is not only a good introduction to the subject, it was very different from earlier texts and altered the way inorganic chemistry was taught. It seemed to be symbolic of the renaissance in inorganic chemistry starting in the 1950s. Every new text in inorganic chemistry since this text has had to respond to it. It had a significant influence on how inorganic chemistry is taught.

Physical chemistry

Physical Chemistry

Description: A classic general textbook for an undergraduate course in physical chemistry.

Importance: This book is not only a good introduction to the subject, it was very different from earlier texts and altered the way physical chemistry was taught. The first edition was very widely used where English is the language of instruction. Other texts had to respond to the lead from Atkins. The current edition is the 8th edition.

Physical Chemistry

Description: An encyclopedic text and reference suitable for advanced undergraduate or graduate study.

Importance: This massive text by outstanding research workers begins with simple systems and proceeds logically to the more complex phenomena of physical chemistry. The original literature is cited extensively, making the work useful as a reference as well as a textbook. Many topics of current research are treated. Its advanced and exhaustive coverage of the field, together with extensive coverage of modern topics, eclipses the former champion, the text by E. A. Moelwyn-Hughes.

The Structure of Physical Chemistry

  • C. N. Hinshelwood
  • Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1951.
  • Republished by Oxford University Press, December 2005. ISBN13: 9780198570257 ISBN10: 0198570252

Description: This is a scholarly book which as its title suggests gives an overall structure to the discipline of physical chemistry by the British Nobel Prize winner.

Importance: An impressively scholarly work which influenced the development of physical chemistry and is still valuable today.


A Structure for Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid

  • Watson and Crick
  • Nature 171, 737-738 (1953) © Macmillan Publishers Ltd.
  • Online version

Description: In this paper the structure of DNA was proposed. It consisted of a double helix with a phosphate backbone, unlike Linus Pauling and R.B. Corey's double helix where the backbone consisted of the bases. They conclude with the sly remark: "It has not escaped our notice that the specific pairing we have postulated immediately suggests a possible copying mechanism for the genetic material."

Importance: Topic creator, Breakthrough, Influence

Analytical chemistry

Analysis of biological materials by atomic absorption spectroscopy

  • Day, R. A. and Arthur L. Underwood
  • Prentice Hall, 6th Edition, 1991, ISBN 0-13-747155-6


Importance: Introduction, Reference.

Polymer chemistry

Environmental chemistry

Aquatic Chemistry, Chemical Equilibria and Rates in Natural Waters

  • Stumm, Werner and James J. Morgan.
  • John Wiley and Sons, Inc., 3rd Edition, 1996, ISBN 0-471-51185-4.

Description. This book covers the full spectrum of the discipline including acid/base equilibria, carbonate chemistry, mass transfer, complexation, sorption phenomenon, oxidation/reduction, colloid chemistry, and flocculation/coagulation. The authors generally present the material using a ground up approach that emphasizes fundamental principles of thermodynamics and kinetics.

Importance. The publication is one of the most widely cited texts in environmental chemistry. In 1999, Stumm and Morgan received the Stockholm Water Prize for their contributions in the field. The citation specifically mentioned Aquatic Chemistry where it was described as a "seminal book" which is "used in education all over the world".[7]


Chemical thermodynamics

On the Equilibrium of Heterogeneous Substances

  • Gibbs, Willard
  • Trans. Conn. Acad., Vol. III, pp. 108-248, 1876; pp. 343-524, 1878.

Description: paper applied the thermodynamic theory of steam engines to atomic level chemical reactions; i.e., it established equilibrium criteria necessary to predict the thermodynamic tendency of chemical reactions at constant temperature and pressure.

Importance: topic creator; historian Bill Bryson states, in his A Short History of Nearly Everything, that Gibbs’ Equilibrium paper is "the Principia of thermodynamics".[8] In addition, this paper, in many ways, functions as the mathematical foundation of physical chemistry.

Nuclear chemistry

Karlsruhe Nuclide Chart, 7th Edition, 2006

  • Joseph Magill, Gerda Pfennig, Jean Galy
  • ISBN -92-79-02175-2, 2006

Description: Karlsruhe Nuklidkarte 2006 - A Record of Human Achievement in Nuclear Science 2006.

Radioactivity Radionuclides Radiation

  • Joseph Magill, Jean Galy
  • ISBN -3-540-21116-0, Springer, 2005

Description: The three "Rs" of nuclear science 2005.

Radiochemistry and Nuclear Chemistry

  • Choppin, Liljenenzin and Rydberg
  • ISBN 0750674636, Butterworth-Heinemann, 2002

Description: Very comprenhensive textbook on the subject.

Radioactivity, Ionizing radiation and Nuclear Energy

  • Hála and Navratil
  • ISBN 807302053X, Konvoj, 2003

Description: Good basic textbook on the subject, ideal for undergrads.


Electrochemical Methods: Fundamentals and Applications

  • Allen J. Bard, Larry R. Faulkner
  • ISBN 0471043729, Wiley, 2000

Description: Very comprenhensive textbook in electrochemistry. Includes basic theory and practical applications.

Importance: One of the most widely used electrochemistry books in the world.

Theoretical chemistry, Quantum chemistry and Computational Chemistry

Valence and the structure of atoms and molecules

Description: Discusses ionic and covalent bonding (polar and non-polar).

Importance: The book that introduced the modern concept of the covalent bond as the sharing of electron pairs, and tried to reconcile the chemist's empirical view of the atom with the physicist's and spectroscopist's quantum mechanical view. It could be considered a precursor to Pauling's books.

Introduction to Quantum Mechanics with Applications to Chemistry

  • Linus Pauling, E Bright Wilson
  • New York, London, McGraw-Hill book company, 1935.

Description: A classic and excellent introduction to quantum mechanics.

Importance: One of the earliest books that introduced quantum mechanics to chemists. It remains well loved by many to this day.

The Nature of the Chemical Bond and the Structure of Molecules and Crystals; An Introduction to Modern Structural Chemistry

  • Linus Pauling
  • Ithaca, N.Y., London, Cornell University Press; H. Milford, Oxford University Press, 1940.

Description: A classic that introduced valence bond theory to chemists in general.

Importance: Of crucial importance, as it probably more than any other book introduced quantum mechanics to experimental chemists. The 1940 First edition was the most significant; the 1959 edition much less so.

Density-Functional Theory of Atoms and Molecules

  • R. G. Parr and W. Yang,
  • Oxford University Press, New York, 1989.

Description: A very thorough and scholarly account of density functional theory.

Importance: This is a good introduction to the subject, but has particular significance in the way it describes how the theory throws new light on old chemical concepts such as electronegativity.

Supramolecular chemistry

Supramolecular Chemistry - Concepts and Perspectives

Description: Comprenhensive textbook written by topic creator.

Importance: Most-popular textbook on subject (according to Lehn coined the term "supermolecule" in '73, developed the concept of supramolecular chemistry in '78, and won the Nobel Prize for his supramolecular chemistry work in ’87.

Medicinal chemistry

The Practice of Medicinal Chemistry

  • Camille Georges Wermuth editor
  • Academic Press, 1996, ISBN 0-12-744640-0
  • 2nd edition, Academic Press, 2003, ISBN 0-12-744481-5

Description: A great overview of the theory, methodology, and techniques of drug design.

Importance: Introduction, Influence

Combinatorial chemistry

See also


  1. ^ "From the mazy and incoherent alchemical and iatrochemical doctrines, the former based on false conceptions of matter, the latter on erroneous views of life processes and physiology, a new science arose - the study of the composition of substances. The formulation of this definition of chemistry was due to Robert Boyle. In his Sceptical Chemist (1662) he freely criticized the prevailing scientific views and methods, with the object of showing that true knowledge could only be gained by the logical application of the principles of experiment and deduction." 1911 Britannica
  2. ^ Famous Chemists, Sir William A. Tilden, George Routledge & Sons Ltd., (1921), pg 1 - 21.
  3. ^ A History of Chemistry, Volume 2, J. R. Partington, Macmillan, reprinted 1969, pg 497.
  4. ^ Traité Élémentaire de Chimie - Details and contents (in French)
  5. ^ "The spread of Lavoisier's doctrines was greatly facilitated by the defined and logical form in which he presented them in his Traite elementaire de chimie (presente dans un ordre nouveau et d'apres les decouvertes modernes) (1789)." 1911 Britannica
  6. ^ "His seminal reference-Advanced Organic Chemistry-is known worldwide and has been a mainstay among chemists for 30 years". New York Times orbituary
  7. ^ The Stockholm International Water Institute Follow links to "Stockholm Water Prize", "Laureates", "1999", and "Read more".
  8. ^ Bryson, Bill (2005). A Short History of Nearly Everything. Broadway Books. ISBN 0-7679-0817-1. 
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "List_of_important_publications_in_chemistry". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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