Chemical Encyclopedias and Dictionaries

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Chemical Encyclopedias and Dictionaries


scientific reference works that contain basic information on chemistry and chemical engineering. The information in such works is arranged alphabetically or, less often, is classified according to subject.

A distinction is made between general chemical encyclopedias, which cover all fields of chemistry, and special chemical encyclopedias, which deal with particular fields. In addition to articles on the major concepts of chemistry, the properties of substances, and chemical reactions, many modern chemical encyclopedias and dictionaries contain information about laboratory equipment, the nomenclature of chemical compounds, named reactions, and specific aspects of allied sciences, such as biology, physics, and medicine. The main articles are usually accompanied by references to the most important sources in the literature. As a rule, multivolume works contain subject indexes. Short biographies of prominent chemists are published in some chemical encyclopedias and dictionaries.

The predecessors of chemical encyclopedias were certain manuscripts from the first through the fourth centuries; the authors included Pliny the Elder, Bolus of Mendes, and Zosimus of Panopolis. The last chapters of the Book of the Seventy, which has been attributed to the Arabic alchemist Jabir ibn Hayyan (Latinized form, Geber), are devoted to a presentation of knowledge of chemistry and metallurgy. Other important works of alchemists include the Book of Secrets and the Book of the Secret of Secrets by Rhazes, who was the first to attempt to classify all the substances known in his day; De alchimia (On Alchemy), which is attributed to Albertus Magnus; and the Opus Majus (Great Work) of R. Bacon. On Pyrotechnics by V. Biringuccio (1540) and De re metallica (On Mining and Metallurgy) by G. Agricola (1556) had great importance for the compilation of chemical encyclopedias.

The first chemical encyclopedias appeared in the 17th and 18th centuries. They were one- or two-volume works in which the material was arranged alphabetically. Examples include the Lexicon alchemiae by M. Ruland (Frankfurt am Main, 1612), the Lexicon chymicum by W. Johnson (vols. 1–2, London, 1652–53), and the Dictionnaire de chymie . . . by P. J. Macquer (vols. 1–2, Paris, 1766). Macquer’s dictionary was reissued many times and was translated into other languages; translations of many of the articles with certain changes were published between 1788 and 1790 in N. I. Novikov’s Magazin natural’noi istorii, fiziki i khimii … (Journal of Natural History, Physics, and Chemistry . . ., parts 1–10). In the early 19th century, V. M. Severgin published a work by C. L. Cadet de Gassicourt under the title Slovar’ khimicheskii, soderzhashchii v sebe teoriiu i praktiku khimii s prilozheniem ee k estestvennoi istorii i iskusstvam, obrabotannyi na rossiiskom iazyke trudami Vasiliia Severgina (A Chemical Dictionary Containing the Theory and Practice of Chemistry and Its Application to Natural History and the Arts, Translated Into Russian by Vasilii Severgin; parts 1–4, St. Petersburg, 1810–13).

Basic multivolume chemical encyclopedias appeared in the second half of the 19th century and in the early 20th century. A list, in chronological order, of some of these encyclopedias follows.

Liebig, J., J. Poggendorf, and F. Wöhler. Handwörterbuch der reinen und angewandten Chemie, vols. 1–9. Braunschweig, 1837–64.

Wurtz, C. A. Dictionnaire de Chimiepure et appliquée, vols. 1–3 (with two supplements). Paris, 1868–1908.

Ladenburg, A. Handwörterbuch der Chemie, vols. 1–13. Breslau, 1882–95.

Frémy, E. Encyclopédie chimique, vols. 1–94. Paris, 1882–99.

Muspratt, J. S. Theoretische, praktische und analytische Chemie in Anwendung auf Künste und Gewerbe, 4th ed., vols. 1–12. Braunschweig, 1888–1922.

The most well-known modern chemical encyclopedias include the following.

Encyclopedia of Polymer Science and Technology: Plastics, Resins, Rubbers, Fibers, vols. 1–16. Edited by H. F. Mark, N. G. Gaylord, and N. M. Bikales. New York, 1964–72.

The International Encyclopaedia of Physical Chemistry and Chemical Physics, topics 1–21. Edited by E. A. Guggenheim. Oxford, 1963–75. (In this encyclopedia, several volumes written by prominent specialists are devoted to each subject.)

Kirk, R., and D. Othmer, eds. Encyclopedia of Chemical Technology, 2nd ed., vols. 1–22. London-New York, 1963–70.

Kratkaia khimicheskaia entsiklopediia (Concise Chemical Encyclopedia), vols. 1–5. Editor in chief, I. L. Knuniants. Moscow, 1961–67.

Römpp, H. Chemie Lexicon, 7th ed., vols. 1–5. Stuttgart, 1973–75.

Thorpe, J. F. Dictionary of Applied Chemistry, 4th ed., vols. 1–12. London-New York, 1937–56.

Ullmanns Encyklopädie der technischen Chemie, 3rd ed., vols. 1–19. Munich-Berlin, 1951–69;4thed., vols. 1–8. Munich-Berlin-Vienna, 1972–74.

A list of some modern concise chemical encyclopedias and dictionaries follows. General and inorganic chemistry

Albu, C. D., and M. Brezeanu. Mică enciclopedie de chimie. Bucharest, 1974.

Brockhaus ABC: Chemie, vols. 1–2. Leipzig, 1971.

Carraro, F. Dicionário de quimica. Pŏrto Alegre, Brazil, 1970.

The Condensed Chemical Dictionary, 7th ed. Edited by A. Rose and E. Rose. New York, 1966.

Duval, C., R. Duval, and R. Dolique. Dictionnaire de la chimie et de ses applications, 2nd ed. Paris, 1959.

The Encyclopedia of Chemistry, 3rd ed. Edited by C. A. Hampel and G. G. Hawley. New York, 1973.

Giua, M., and C. Giua-Lollini. Dizionario de chimica: Generale e industriale, 2nd ed., vols. 1–3. Turin, 1948–50.

Kingzett’s Chemical Encyclopaedia: A Digest of Chemistry and Its Industrial Applications, 9th ed. Edited by D. Hey. London, 1966.

Kratka khimicheska entsiklopediia, vols. 1–2. Edited by S. Gutsov. Sofia, 1971–72.

The Merck Index: An Encyclopedia of Chemicals and Drugs, 8th ed. Edited by P. Stecher. Rahway, N.J., 1968.

Neorganicheskaia khimiia: Entsiklopediia shkol’nika (Inorganic Chemistry: A Student’s Encyclopedia). Editor in chief, I. P. Alimarin. Moscow, 1975.

A New Dictionary of Chemistry, 3rd ed. Edited by L. Miall. London, 1961.

Sittig, M. Inorganic and Metallurgical Process Encyclopedia. London, 1968.

Van Nostrand’s International Encyclopedia of Chemical Science. New York, 1964.

Physical chemistry

Clark, G. L., ed. The Encyclopedia of X-rays and Gamma Rays. New York, 1963.

The Encyclopedia of Electrochemistry. Edited by C. Hampel. New York-London, 1964.

Polymer chemistry

Characterization of Polymers: Encyclopedia Reprints. Edited by N. Bikales. New York-London, 1971.

Entsiklopediia polimerov, vols. 1–3. Editor in chief, V. A. Kabanov. Moscow, 1972–77.

Analytical chemistry and laboratory techniques

Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemical Analysis, vols. 1–20. Edited by F. D. Snell, C. L. Hilton, and Z. S. Ettre. New York, 1966–74.

The Encyclopedia of Microscopy. Edited by G. Clark. New York-London, 1961.

The Encyclopedia of Microscopy and Microtechnique. Edited by P. Gray. New York, 1973.

Parr, N. L., ed. Laboratory Handbook. London, 1963.

Applied chemistry and chemical engineering

Dictionary of Chemistry and Chemical Technology, in Six Languages. Edited by Z. Sobecka. Oxford-Warsaw, 1965.

The Encyclopedia of Chemical Process Equipment. Edited by W. J. Mead. New York, 1974.

Stewart, J. An Encyclopedia of the Chemical Process Industries. New York, 1956.

Information on chemistry and chemical engineering is also included in general encyclopedias and in technical encyclopedias and dictionaries. For example, in the Great Soviet Encyclopedia (3rd ed.), more than 4,000 articles are devoted to major aspects of theoretical and applied chemistry.


Terent’ev, A. P., and L. A. Ianovskaia. Khimicheskaia literatura i pol’zovanie eiu, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1967.
Figurovskii, N. A. Ocherk obshchei istorii khimii: Ot drevneishikh vremen do nachala XIX v. Moscow, 1969.
Giua, M. Istoriia khimii, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1975. (Translated from Italian.)
Mellon, M. G. Chemical Publications, Their Nature and Use, 4th ed. New York, 1965.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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