Chemical literature

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The chemical literature or chemistry literature consists of textbooks for students, textbooks on special topics, journals, anthologies on chemical substances and reactions .

Chemical journals and their historical origins

With the emergence of the first chemical journals at the end of the 18th century, it was possible to communicate with other interested scholars about chemical conversions, new chemical theories and the nature of the constitution of compounds . Results and theories could be discussed in the journals. As a result, knowledge in chemistry spread faster.

The first purely chemical journals were Crells Chemisches Journal ( Lorenz von Crell , from 1778) and the Journal Annales de Chimie (1779 and 1771) published by Lavoisier and the Journal de physique, de chimie et d'histoire naturelle . Around 1820, three chemistry journals were of particular importance in France: Annales de Chimie et de Physique , the Comptes rendus of the Academy of Sciences and the Mémoires de la société d'Arcueil .

In England there were the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society , the Journal of Natural Philosophy, Chemistry and the Arts ( Nicholson's Journal ) by Nicholson , the Annales of philosophy by Thomson and Phillips . The Journal of the Chemical Society of the Chemical Society has been particularly important since 1849 . The Journal of Science and Arts and the Philosophical Magazine (since 1788), the Chemist and the Chemical Gazette also followed . The Journal of Practical Chemistry and Chemical News followed in 1859, and later the journal Nature (1869). From 1824 the journal The Chemist appeared , from 1840 the journal Chemist; or Reporter of Chemical Discoveries and Improvements .

After the founding of the first chemical society in London, the Chemical Society of London (1841), and the beginning of the university transfer of chemical knowledge based on the ideas of Justus von Liebig , interest in chemistry among the population grew rapidly. Additional chemical journals and textbooks were needed for communication between scientists.

In Germany there was the first chemical journal, the Chemischen Annalen (previously Chemisches Journal ) since 1778 by the editor Lorenz von Crell. A very important journal was the Annalen der Physik und Chemie (1820, Berlin) published by Johann Christian Poggendorff . Another even more important journal was the Annalen der Pharmazie , edited by Justus von Liebig and Friedrich Wöhler , which was later renamed Annalen der Chemie . In 1834 the "Allgemeine Journal für Chemie" ( Otto Linné Erdmann ) went into the Journal for practical chemistry under Hermann Kolbe . Other very important journals were: the Zeitschrift für Analytische Chemie (1862) by Carl Remigius Fresenius , the Zeitschrift für Anorganische Chemie (1892) by Gerhard Krüss , the Zeitschrift für Physical Chemie (1887) by Wilhelm Ostwald , the reports of the German Chemical Society ( Chemical reports ) by August Wilhelm von Hofmann . Between 1880 and 1910 the chemical journals from Germany had a dominant position, and English and French journals were also important at that time.

The Russian Chemical Society was founded in 1869 and published the Zhurnal .

In 1874, at the suggestion of Henry Carrington Bolton (a student of Friedrich Wöhler), the American Chemical Society was founded .

In 1811 a chemical society (Columbian Chemical Society) was formed in Philadelphia, the third attempt at such a foundation in Philadelphia, which published the first US chemistry journal, Memoirs of the Columbian Chemical Society .

The American Journal of Chemistry was founded in the USA in 1879 . In 1912 this journal went into the Journal of the American Chemical Society . The Journal of the American Chemical Society was published in 1893, and for a long time it was the most important chemistry journal in the United States. The Journal of Industrial and Engineering Chemistry was added in 1909 and the Journal of Organic Chemistry in 1936 .

The more articles appeared in the specialist journals, the more important it became to present the new findings in modern textbooks, to catalog the multitude of new chemical compounds and reactions, and to summarize the individual articles in the relevant journals briefly and succinctly. Scientific authors have a high reputation for their work and have considerable responsibility for the welfare of the community.

Important modern magazines

There are about 1,500 journals and journals in the field of chemistry.

Chemisches Zentralblatt and Chemical Abstracts

The Chemisches Zentralblatt was founded around 1830. From 1890, the Chemisches Zentralblatt published a competent summary of each article in a specialist journal. At that time, these summaries comprised 2 to 30 lines of text, depending on the size of the article, and were much more detailed than the current Chemical Abstracts . The Chemisches Zentralblatt included patents, molecular formulas of compounds, chemical substance names, subject indexes, and author names in the field of chemistry. For every compound that was produced in the course of a synthetic work or found in a natural product and about which was reported in a scientific article, the Chemisches Zentralblatt gave an entry based on the molecular formula or the name, so that interested scientists could refer to the literature references in the were able to quickly find and evaluate the relevant trade journal. The Chemisches Zentralblatt is more useful for finding chemical literature references before World War II.

The Chemical Abstracts in the USA appeared around 1907. At that time, however, the literature review was still very incomplete compared to the Chemisches Zentralblatt. The Chemical Abstracts are only recommended for research in the chemical literature from 1940 onwards.

The Chemical Abstracts also contain a subject index, a sum formula index and an author index. Conference reports, books and government reports are also evaluated. The amount of data from Chemical Abstracts is believed to be e.g. At present there are probably over 20 million articles from the chemical sector evaluated. Without cataloging it would be impossible today to find a corresponding literature reference.

In the Chemical Abstracts, about 10,000 journals in the field of chemistry are currently viewed by competent employees, short summaries are written, connections are included in the subject index. For the evaluation of around 1.5 million articles from 150 countries, 50 languages ​​in 1989, 1500 employees were required.

In addition to the annual register volumes for cataloging empirical formulas, patents and authors, Chemical Abstracts also published a register for every four years. For scientists, searching for a reference using a chemical compound used to be very time-consuming. They had to go to a library and look for the corresponding register volumes according to the empirical formula, the substance name. Then they had to systematically search the previous volume (4 years each) for corresponding entries. If chemists suspected that a substance was already known before 1940, they also had to search the corresponding volumes in the Chemisches Zentralblatt. From the register for empirical formulas, substance names there are one or more numbers for the consecutive short descriptions in Chemical Abstracts. Each short description also contains information on the name of the journal, the year, the journal number and the page. Each entry must be checked for information of interest from the Chemical Abstracts Summary Report. If this is the case, chemists can find the relevant journal in the library, read through it and, if necessary, photocopy it.

Today people use the PC and the Internet. You no longer have to search a library to find the individual volumes of Chemical Abstracts. The “ SciFinder ” program enables a quick search. A cheaper version, especially for universities, is the SciFinder Scholar program, with which certain functions such as e. B. a substructure search is not set up. With certain search functions, the search can be narrowed down and improved. This way you can find the correct scientific literature much faster.

Searching is quite easy with this program. The window "Explore by Chemical Substance" opens. With this program it is sufficient to record the corresponding chemical structure on the screen with an included program. If you know the correct substance name, the substance name can also be entered.

With this program there is also the possibility to find the manufacturer of a chemical compound, you can search for specific names etc.

In the past - before Chemical Abstracts caught on in literature research - there were similar reviews of chemical literature for other countries and languages. In Japan there is the Kagaku (since 1974), in Russia the Referativnyi Zhurnal (since 1953), in Great Britain the British Abstracts (1926–1956).


Great chemistry teachers often also wrote textbooks for their students, allowing better access to the department's knowledge base. Lavoisier's Traité de chimie (1789), Thénards Traité de chimie élémentaire , Mitscherlich's Textbook of Chemistry , Liebig's Organic Chemistry , Wöhler's Grundriß der Chemie , Strecker's Kurzes Lehrbuch der Chemie and Graham's Elements of chemistry were very important early chemistry textbooks .

Modern textbooks

Textbooks are aimed primarily at chemistry students and convey the basics of sub-areas of chemistry in a didactically prepared manner. The most tried and tested standard works are so common in teaching that students and teachers use the names of the authors instead of the book titles (" der Holleman-Wiberg"), such as:

Many of these textbooks are translations and adaptations of English-language templates, but others such as Holleman-Wiberg have also been translated from German into English.


Many authors would like to make their special knowledge about a certain branch of science accessible to the readership. There are therefore very many good books on sub-areas of chemistry, for example nanoparticles, gas chromatography, natural product synthesis, etc. However, many of these scientific books are not very cheap because the number of buyers of these books is small and each author receives a reasonable income from the sale of his work would like to have. Many specialist libraries make the monographs available to students for inspection.

Manuals and encyclopedias

Chemistry handbooks are alphabetically arranged encyclopedias or book series arranged according to chemical substances that bring together the knowledge from the specialist journals. They were of great importance for looking up or for familiarization with a topic. The important concise dictionary of pure and applied chemistry was published by Justus von Liebig, Friedrich Wöhler and Johann Christian Poggendorff since 1837 and bundled the chemical knowledge of this time in nine extensive books. Later, and the Handbook of Chemistry of Albert Ladenburg .

Similar dictionaries existed in France, e.g. B. Dictionnaire de chimie pure et appliquée by Charles Adolphe Wurtz or the Encyclopédie de chimie .

Organic Compounds Handbook

Beilstein's Handbook of Organic Chemistry contains all the organic compounds listed in the literature since 1830. It contains the following information:

  • Constitution, configuration
  • Occurrence, extraction
  • Manufacturing, education
  • Energy quantities
  • Physical Properties
  • chemical behavior
  • Analytics
  • Salts and addition compounds
  • References

In contrast to the Chemical Abstracts, in the Beilstein the abstract is not taken over from the literature without being checked.

With Beilstein Crossfire there is a well-to-use computer-compatible version. A substance can also be found quickly with this program by recording the structural formula.

Handbook for Inorganic Compounds

Gmelin's Handbook of Inorganic Chemistry is an important resource for inorganic compounds.

Encyclopedias, chemical industry

The Encyclopedia Ullmann's Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry (until 1980 exclusively in German: Ullmann's Encyclopedia of Technical Chemistry ) consists of very well written and understandable individual articles from all areas of chemical engineering. Sometimes older representations had to be revised for reasons of space and knowledge. In older articles, however, the reader will sometimes find a clearer and more understandable presentation, so that the older volumes should by no means be shelved. The eight-volume book series Chemical Technology, Processes and Products by Karl Winnacker , Leopold Küchler offers a very good overview of technical chemistry ; for the English-speaking world, Kirk-Othmer's The Encyclopedia of Chemical Technology (editors Donald F. Othmer , Raymond Eller Kirk ) is as well geared as Ullmann's encyclopedia to all economically important areas of chemistry. In very extensive individual articles, the scope of which at Ullmann's or Kirk-Othmer can sometimes exceed 100 pages, important groups of substances (areas of application), chemical processes, investigation methods (e.g. dyes, plastics or NMR spectroscopy) are described in detail.

Conversion of functional groups in organic chemistry

Important reference works are the Houben-Weyl (in German) and the Theilheimer ( Synthetic Methods of Organic Chemistry , first editor William Theilheimer ).

Annual reports

In order to present particularly important scientific findings according to subject area in a given year, annual reports soon had great interest among readership from chemistry. Jöns Jakob Berzelius wrote such reports between 1821 and 1847. Von Liebig later continued such reports. Richard Meyer published the Jahrbuch der Chemie since 1891.

Even today there are still overviews of important new annual discoveries in chemistry. In the news from chemistry , the third journal of the year deals with the particularly important findings of the individual subject areas.

Works in tabular form on chemical substances and their properties

Reference works with information on solubility, refractive index, boiling points, azeotropes , mixing ratios, conductivities, spectral data of inorganic and organic compounds are the CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics , the Merck Index , the paperback for chemists and physicists . There is a lot of material on fabrics in Landolt-Börnstein . A lot of information on chemicals, manufacturing processes and chemical companies can be found in the Römpp Chemistry Lexicon .

Computer-based search programs

The Chemical Abstracts and some other databases such as B. Medline can be researched with the SciFinder program , the Beilstein and Gmelin, as well as the Chemical Patents database can be searched with Reaxys . Many other databases are provided by commercial database providers such as STN , Dialog , DECHEMA and others. The Web of Science is a (commercial) database that not only opens up chemical literature, but also covers a wide range of subjects. This can be an advantage for a broad search query because neighboring disciplines are also recorded.

The Science Citation Index takes a different approach. This is a so-called citation database , which means that it is specified in which publications a certain article was cited. It can be queried via the Web of Science. Similar, also commercial products are Scirus and Scopus . Google Scholar is a free database, but the results have to be evaluated critically, as both the search algorithm and the internal evaluation process, which effects the order of the article display, can be susceptible to manipulation. In addition, only a relatively small proportion of relevant publications is recorded.


Patents are primarily documents with which the inventor of a thing acquires a temporary but exclusive right of use, but they are also a good source of chemical and technical information. By the indexing system z. B. the International Patent Classification , patents can be searched in a very structured way.

Online patent databases are usually provided free of charge by the national (e.g. German ) or international (e.g. European ) patent organizations.


  • William H. Brock : Vieweg's History of Chemistry . Vieweg Verlag, p. 282 ff., ISBN 3-528-06645-8 (history of chemical literature).
  • CR Burman: How to find out in chemistry , Pergamon Press 1966
  • Wendy Warr: Chemical Information Management . VCH, Weinheim 1992, p. 9 ff., ISBN 3-527-28366-8 (general overview of chemical literature).
  • Damon D. Ridley: Information Retrieval - Scifinder and Scifinder Scolar . Wiley & Sons, 2002.
  • Stephen R. Heller: The Beilstein online database . ACS Symposium Series, ISBN 0-8412-1862-5 .
  • AM Cogill, LR Garson: The ACS Style Guide . Oxford University Press, Washington DC 2006, 3rd Edition (Science Writing Guide).
  • Robert Bottle, JFB Rowland (Ed.): Information Sources in Chemistry , Dowker-Saur 1993
  • Ernst von Meyer: History of Chemistry , 3rd edition, Verlag von Veit & Comp., Leipzig 1905

Individual evidence

  1. a b c d William H. Brock: Viewegs Geschichte der Chemie, Vieweg Verlag, p. 282 ff.
  2. Wyndham D. Miles, The Columbian Chemical Society, Chymia, Vol. 5, 1959, pp. 145-154, JSTOR 27757182 .
  3. ^ A b c Warr, Wendy: Chemical Information management, VCH, Weinheim 1992, pp. 9 ff., ISBN 3-527-28366-8 .
  4. Damon D. Ridley: Information Retrieval - Scifinder and Scifinder Scolar, Wiley & Sons, 2002.
  5. Reiner Luckenbach: Do you know Beilstein, Chemistry in our time, April 1981, p. 47 ff.
  6. ^ Theilheimer (ed.), Synthetic Methods of Organic Chemistry, Basel: Karger, from 1946, from 1982 Theilheimer's Synthetic Methods of Organic Chemistry , ed. AF Finch
  7. Google Scholar - how deep does this search engine dig? ( Memento of April 14, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) (PDF; 650 kB)