A chemistry set is a small collection of chemicals and associated scientific apparatus, typically glass or plastic ware, designed for the user to perform experiments or demonstrations in the science of chemistry.
By far the biggest complaint about chemistry sets is that they are now only a shadow of what they were only a couple of decades ago - the contents are now so safe that the range of interesting/spectacular experiments has been drastically curtailed - some would say, beyond the point of all reason. For example, in Texas you cannot purchase a conical ('Erlenmeyer') flask without a license, in case you might use if for making drugs or explosives for terrorist purposes. Nevertheless, chemistry sets remain the most popular science gift for juveniles, but other scientific gifts include microscopes, telescopes, and electronic kits. The best known chemistry sets were produced by the A. C. Gilbert Company, an early and middle 20th century American manufacturer of educational toys. Porter Chemical Company and the Skilcraft corporation were other manufacturers. In the United Kingdom, Thomas Salter Science produced a series of seven chemistry sets in the 1970s.
Chemistry is the branch of science concerned with the properties, structure, and composition of substances and their reactions with one another. There are two main divisions, organic and inorganic. Inorganic chemistry is concerned with the elements and all their compounds except those of carbon, which are the subject of organic chemistry. Physical chemistry studies their physical properties and structures and the relations between energy and physical and chemical change. Analytical chemistry is concerned with determining the composition of substances.
Health and Safety
Chemistry is very safe these days. In fact so safe that many people feel the zing has gone out of modern chemistry sets.
"Throughout much of the 20th century, amateur chemistry was an unexceptional hobby, with high-quality chemistry sets readily available, and laboratory suppliers freely selling to hobbyists. For example, Linus Pauling had no difficulty in procuring potassium cyanide at the age of eleven. However, due to increasing concerns about terrorism, drugs and safety, suppliers became increasingly reluctant to sell to amateurs, and chemistry sets were steadily toned down. This trend has gradually continued, leaving hobbyists in many parts of the world without access to most reagents." (Amateur Chemistry, from wikipedia)
The oft-heard gripe that chemistry sets ain't what they used to be is basically true - it's not just us oldies yearning for the good ole days, chemistry sets have been heavily watered down for health & safety reasons. Whether that's gone too far might be a debatable point, but modern chemistry sets can still convey some of the essential fascination of mixing stuff and seeing reactions - they just won't blow your fingers off! We usually recommend the Chemistry Lab because its got twice as many chemicals as any other set, and comes with an instruction booklet and CD, at a reasonable price. For younger children, the Primary Science Kit might be more suitable, or the Kitchen Chemistry.
The Golden Book of Chemistry Experiments was a children's chemistry book written in the 1960s by Robert Brent and illustrated by Harry Lazarus and published by Western Publishing in their Golden Books series. Many of the experiments contained in the book are now considered highly dangerous for unsupervised children, and would not appear in a modern children's chemistry book. OCLC lists only 126 copies of this book in libraries worldwide. It was said that the experiments and information contained herein were too dangerous for the general public.
The book was a source of inspiration to David Hahn, nicknamed "the Radioactive Boy Scout" by the media, who tried to collect a sample of every chemical element and also built a model nuclear reactor, which led to the involvement of the authorities.
The first edition was printed in 1960. A second printing was made in 1962 and a revised edition was printed in 1963.
Copies of this book often sell for prices between $100 to over $700 (USD), or higher, depending on condition.
Recommended Chemistry Sets
Perform over 100 safety tested experiments with the Chemistry Lab and its easy to use and informative Instruction Booklet, written by Dr. David Webster - a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry and a Chartered Chemist. He has been teaching practical chemistry for over 40 years, and is the author of a chemistry textbook for younger secondary school children. He has designed and tested the 106 experiments in this instruction booklet. The experiments, which get more difficult and involve more complex... more >>>
Intermediate Level Chemistry Experiment Kit CHEM C2000 is a complete introduction to the most important topics in chemistry. Discover how fascinating the world is when you know the chemistry behind how everyday things work. Understanding chemical reactions turns the ordinary occurrences around us into remarkable events. You will start with fun experiments to learn basic chemistry principles. Build a mini fire extinguisher and float a soap-powered boat. Write with invisible ink and test coloured markers on the chromatography racetrack. Entertain your friends with "magic" tricks, and then enlighten them with the scientific explanations behind the magic. Make dazzling colors in flame tests and produce electricity in a test tube. After you have some lab experience, you will learn how to use the alcohol burner and perform experiments that require heat. 96-page Manual 251 Experiments.
- Endangered Species - The Chemistry Set
- What do Islamofacism, methamphetamine production, tort lawyers, and homemade fireworks have in common? The answer is that they are all part of the seemingly inevitable process of destroying the childhood Chemistry Set. A.C. Gilbert, in 1918 was titled the “Man who Saved Christmas” with his innovative ideas of packaging a few glass tubes and some common chemicals into starter kits that enabled a generation to learn the joy of experimentation, and the basis for the scientific method of thought.
- The chemistry set generation
The earliest chemistry sets date back to the 18th century and the first sets to be targeted at children appeared in the 1830s
Early chemistry set manufacturers drew parallels between chemistry and magic to inspire children
The chemistry set's heyday was during the 1940s and 1950s but they rapidly went out of fashion after the 1960s
Chemistry sets just aren't what they used to be. The days of stinks in sinks and bangs in basements are well and truly gone, but are certainly not forgotten. Just take a look at the biographies of distinguished chemists: more often than not, their fond memories of childhood are strewn with broken glass, tinted with spectacular colours and reek of sulfurous smells.
- The Chemistry gift guide - Celebrating chemistry and inspiring the next generation of chemists!
- It was a Lionel/Porter/Chemcraft chemistry set, and the exact model I'd asked for. The biggest one, with dozens of chemicals and hundreds of experiments. Glassware, an alcohol lamp, a balance, even a centrifuge. Everything I needed to do real chemistry. I instantly forgot about the rest of my presents, even the BB gun. I started reading the manual, jumping from one experiment to another. I carefully examined each of the chemical bottles. The names of the chemicals were magical. Copper sulfate, sodium carbonate, sulfur, cobalt chloride, logwood, potassium ferricyanide, ferrous ammonium sulfate, and dozens more.
- Chemistry Set (wikipedia)
- A chemistry set is an educational toy allowing the user (typically a teenager) to perform simple chemistry experiments. The best known such sets were produced by the A. C. Gilbert Company, an early and middle 20th century American manufacturer of educational toys. Porter Chemical Company and the Skilcraft corporation were other manufacturers. In the United Kingdom, Thomas Salter Science produced a series of seven chemistry sets in the 1970s.