SHiPS Resource Center ||   BOOK BRIEF

reviewed 9/94 The Growth of Scientific Ideas: Laboratory Manual. Paul Cohen. Kendall/Hunt (1993). ISBN 0-8403-8980-9. $22.95.

Paul Cohen is familiar to many as co-author (with his wife) of the column on science sites to visit in the Journal of College Science Teaching. In this book, he amplifies his interest in history. He reports, "the manual includes 23 experiments which either reproduce or exhibit important physical science principles or ideas that are in historical perspective. Each experiment is introduced with the historical background needed by the student to understand why this is an important scientific idea."

Dr. Cohen has observed that though many historical experiments are simple conceptually, technically they can be quite difficult--and potentially frustrating for students. Peter Heering and his colleagues at Oldenburg Univ. in Germany found, for example, that the temperature measurements in Joule's experiment on the mechanical equivalent of heat are so sensitive that having the additional heat from more than one experimenter in the room can interfere with the results. The observer himself must stand behind a shield to minimize radiant heat. St. Paul chemistry teacher Rick Swanson and I will also attest to the difficulties of replication in our efforts to mimic Lavoisier's studies on weight changes when one calcines metals or reduces their oxides. The numbers using simple apparatus are not nearly so clean as one may be led to believe. Having noticed these types of problems, largely disregarded in earlier similar books, Dr. Cohen hopes to have solved or circumvented them in his lab manual

--Douglas Allchin

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