Johnston, James F. W. | The Chemistry of Common Life

  • First complete edition of this popular Victorian work on the chemistry of the everyday, published in two volumes the year after the first volume appeared.

    Author James F. W. Johnston (1796-1855) was a chemist and lecturer, and together with David Brewster one of the founders of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. His association with J. J. Berzelius “brought him prestige and fuelled his interest in the way atoms might be arranged in compounds; though chemical atomic theory was still very hypothetical in the 1830s, some inferences could be made. In 1837 he wrote an important report for the British Association meeting at Newcastle upon Tyne, on the relationship between chemical constitution and properties. In 1833 Johnston was appointed reader in chemistry at the newly founded and staunchly Anglican University of Durham, despite belonging to the Church of Scotland. At Durham he strenuously promoted a course in engineering, which involved highly practical work and some advanced chemistry and mathematics... Johnston became a successful popular lecturer and writer at a time when such activity did not diminish a professional reputation. In 1851 he published Notes on North America, following a visit there in 1849–50. This was concerned particularly with agriculture, on which he had become an expert—a good move in the ‘hungry Forties’. His brief Catechism of Agricultural Chemistry and Geology (1844) went through more than thirty editions in his lifetime, was widely translated, and was recommended by Tolstoy among others, and his more formal Elements of Agricultural Chemistry and Geology (1842) was also a great success, with a nineteenth edition in 1895. He provided introduction and notes for the Dutch professor G. T. Mulder's Chemistry of Vegetable and Animal Physiology (1845) and for Mulder's controversial claims against Liebig published in the following year. His Chemistry of Common Life, which was completed in 1855 just before his death, was a classic popularization of up-to-date science” (ODNB).

  • Edinburgh & London: William Blackwood and Sons, 1855.

    2 volumes, octavo (178 x 113 mm). Contemporary brown half calf, spines gilt in compartments, red morocco labels, marbled sides, endpapers, and edges. Steel engravings throughout the text. H7 and 8 unopened. Lacking the ads normally present. Bindings rubbed, occasional light spotting to contents. A very good set.