Retro Science Books: Golden Book of Chemistry Experiments and Mr Wizard's 400 Experiments in Science

Golden Book Of Chemistry Experiments Hardcover
Golden Book Of Chemistry Experiments Hardcover

No, not books about Retro Science (although that would be cool too) but Retro Books about Science. I grew up mixing nasty concoctions from these two books in a "secret" lab constructed under the basement stairway (shades of Harry Potter). I probably spent more time building and equipping the lab than actually doing anything in it, come to think about it.

These are both cool books. The first one, "The Golden Book of Chemistry Experiments" has quite a story behind it. Apparently it was at one point banned and destroyed allegedly by the nebulous US Government. Accounts say this was in the late 60's, and the copyright was never renewed (pre-dating the era of nearly-infinite automatically-renewed copyrights). However, my hardback copy says it is the third revised printing, from 1971. Strange. Perhaps my version is a "sanitized" version or something. You can buy originals hardback collectors editions of the 1960s printing on Amazon for between $100 and $700! I'm holding on to my copy because it's just cool.

Here's the back cover of mine:

Dangerous highlights include how to make chlorine gas and working with acids. However, the sections on making lab apparatus, cutting and bending glass (!), scientific measurements and lab techniques are superb. There's a very Bohr-ist model of the atom on page 35 (no Heisenburg for you!).

If you just want to read it for yourself, you can check out the PDF version by direct download from Found on the Web. Or, if you prefer BitTorrent, Mininova has it.

I did a comparison of my edition to the PDF, and noted only two differences. One is the "revised" annotation on page 2:

Secondly, and more strangely, my edition has two whole pages missing. Are they about backyard nuclear fusion or uranium enrichment? Nope. Pages 6-7 of the 1960 edition (pages 7-8 according to the PDF because it includes the cover) are about "Chemists of the Past", Empedocles, Democritus, Paracelsus, Boyle all the way up through the Curies. Why would you remove this? I'm not sure -- maybe it was too outdated by 1971 and they didn't want to re-write it. Strange. Read it in the PDF version.

Moving on to the second title, who couldn't love a book named "Mr Wizards 400 Experiments in Science". (Reno: "Emilio Lizardo is a top scientist, dummkopf." Perfect Tommy: "So was Mr. Wizard." -The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai, now available on DVD!)

Written by Mr Wizard himself, Don Herbert with Hy Ruchlis, this book is more about demonstrating scientific principles and phenomena in the home with less-sophisticated equipment. No beakers and Bunsen burners, this is all water glasses, pencils, string, tin cans and rubber bands. Just like the original Mr Wizard shows. This stuff is great. This book, thankfully, is a little more affordable! There seem to be several reprints of this with different covers, as you can see from the Amazon link. There's even one called "Soft Blu Bonnet Margarine Presents Mr. Wizard's 400 Easy Experiments in Science by Don Ruchlis, Hy Herbert". Because when I think of melting something on my toast, I want to think of chemistry! And who the heck are these Hy Herbert and Don Ruchlis guys?

Sadly, I can find very little of the original Mr Wizard on video. He'd be cool in a DVD set, or maybe in reruns on Discovery or some new geek & gearhead network.

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