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Ballard's Chemical Appendix:
JG Ballard's Book Reviews for Chemistry & Industry


Mike Bonsall

This article is much as it originally appeared when published in 2007 by Simon Sellars on his great site ballardian.com (sadly now offline).

J.G. Ballard in 1965. In the background is a poster of his 'Project for a new novel' made while he worked at C&I

From 1958 to 1964, J.G. Ballard worked at Chemistry & Industry, the journal of the Society of Chemical Industry. As discussed in a previous article, what happened at C&I codified the tropes Ballard was to return to throughout his subsequent writing career — the scientific, technical and imaginative motifs that shape the very essence of what we have come to know and love as 'Ballardian'.

DP: Talking of science, someone pointed out recently that in the 1960s you wrote a lot of short reviews of scientific books in the journal Chemistry and Industry...

JGB: I went semi-freelance in something like 1961, when I'd been working at Chemistry and Industry for about three years. I went in on a two-day-a-week basis, and all those reviews were written in the office. They weren't reviews comparable to the ones that I've written since; they were just notices that summarized recent books. They were merely reviews written from the blurbs — because the blurbs on these scientific textbooks are good, you know. So none of them was paid for, and none of them was in any sense a literary effort except, I think, for one on a book about dreams, where I felt free to offer my own opinions.

David Pringle interviewing Ballard about his book reviews at C&I. Interzone April 1996


[Notes by Mike Bonsall]

Published 31 Mar 1962

Dictionary of Chemistry. Including Chemical Engineering and fundamentals of Allied Sciences. Volume 1. German-English. By Dr. R. Ernst. Pp. 727. London: Sir Isaac Pitman & Sons Ltd. 1961. 52s. 6d.

This German English dictionary contains some 45,000 terms, and in addition to organic, inorganic, physical, electro- and nuclear-chemistry, it includes material from those technologies which have a close relationship with chemistry — for example, oil, food and the sugar industry — and the more relevant terms encountered in the fields of geology, mineralogy, metallurgy and mathematics.

The author has wisely included words which are the same or nearly the same in both languages, as there are unexpected and important irregularities. Words with several meanings have been explained by synonyms. The dictionary also includes notes on the different usage of some words in English and American practice.

Inevitably every dictionary of this type is to some extent a compromise, but the attention Dr. Ernst has devoted to chemical technology and allied fields has ensured that this dictionary will prove a valuable addition to those already available to the chemist and translator.


Published 02 Jun 1962
[Mention of the National Physical Laboratory where Ballard's best friend Christopher Evans worked]

The Department of Scientific and Industrial Research. By Sir Harry Melville. The New Whitehall Series, No. 9. Pp. 200. London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd. 1962. 25s.

This book describes how the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research promotes and undertakes scientific research in the United Kingdom, and shows how the present organisation has developed over the past forty-five years. It illustrates the work of such DSIR establishments as the National Physical Laboratory and the National Engineering Laboratory, whose functions are defined in terms of a field of science and technology, and of those research institutions with carefully defined practical objectives, such as the Forest Products Research Laboratory and the Building Research Station.

Some of the major contributions to scientific discovery made by DSIR research establishments are described. One of these was the invention of ion-exchange resins before the last war at the Chemical Laboratory, which led to the cheap recovery of uranium from low-grade ores. Another was the invention of “gas storage” for fruit, which allows it to be transported over greater distances and makes it possible for the sale of crops to be spread over longer periods of the year.

The role of the DSIR in awarding grants for scientific research in universities and colleges is illustrated, and the present role of the Research Associations is described.

The author has been Secretary to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, and head of the DSIR, since 1956.


Published 16 Jun 1962
[Writing technical papers is arguably something JGB has been doing for half a century]

Writing a Technical Paper. By D. H. Menzel, H. M. Jones and L. G. Boyd. Pp. vii + 132. London: McGraw-Hill Publishing Co. Ltd. 1961. 15s.

This book is intended to be of practical assistance to the graduate scientist, student or technical writer preparing a scientific paper or report. The authors emphasise the need for the clear statement of facts and ideas. They discuss some of the common flaws in technical exposition and describe methods of correcting them.

The first chapter, “The Evolution of a Paper,” demonstrates how the material for a paper should be assembled and prepared. The next chapter, “Revision,” describes the progress of the paper from the second to the final draft, and explains the correct presentation of footnotes, equations, tables and figures, and the use of abbreviations. Subsequent chapters consider style and grammar, and the last chapter, “The Physical Manuscript,” describes how the final typescript should be prepared and offers a few general rules for the correction of proofs.


Published 04 Aug 1962
[Shades of Ballard’s "Track 12" written in 1958.]

Poisoning by Drugs and Chemicals: An Index of Toxic Effects and their Treatment. By Peter Cooper. 2nd edn. Pp. x + 264. London: Alchemist Publications. 25s.

This book provides doctors, pharmacists, chemists, and all who are liable to be suddenly confronted with cases of poisoning with a pocket-size guide to the toxicology of the commonly handled drugs and chemicals.

Each monograph gives the alternative (including proprietary) names of the compound discussed, followed by concise notes on its pharmacological action, its absorption and excretion in the body, its toxic effects, possible effects of massive overdose, suggestions for treating cases of poisoning, and simple aids to identification.

An appendix discusses the more important first aid measures for use in cases of poisoning, e.g. artificial respiration, gastric lavage, the use of emetics and "universal antidotes".


Published 11 Aug 1962

Great Chemists. Edited by E. Farber. Pp. xxvi + 1642. London: John Wiley & Sons Ltd. 1962. 222s.

This collection of more than 100 biographies covers the development of the science of chemistry over the period of the last 3000 years. The opening chapters provide a brief historical introduction in which the work of Babylonian and Arabic chemists is considered. This is followed by a chapter entitled “Philosophical Alchemists and Practical Metallurgists” which consists of brief accounts of a few outstanding men, such as Albertus and Roger Bacon, who lived in the period between the Arabic chemists of the ninth and tenth centuries, and Paracelsus (1493-1541).

Subsequent chapters on Van Helmont, Glauber and Boyle introduce the age of modern chemistry, and the remainder of the book describes the lives and work of the great chemists and physical chemists of the eighteenth, nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. No living chemist is included. The roster of authors is itself drawn from the last two centuries.

No work of such scope could fail to be of great interest, or suggest numerous comparisons, for example between those great chemists who carried out chemical experiments at an early age, such as Ostwald and Werner, and those who found their way to chemistry after pursuing interests in entirely different fields, such as Kekulé and Windaus. Each of the biographies is preceded by an illustration of the subject.


Published 01 Sep 1962
[Another medic, like Ballard, who went on to greater things. The thesaurus itself is of course very valuable to a writer…]

Roget’s Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases. Revised and modernised by Robert A. Dutch. London: Longmans, Green & Co. Ltd. Pp. lii + 309. 30s.

The first draft of what was to become Roget’s Thesaurus was completed by Dr. Peter Mark Roget in 1806, but it was not until 1852 that the first edition made its appearance. After his death the task of revising the Thesaurus fell to his son. John Lewis Roget, who in turn passed on the task to his own son, Samuel Romilly Roget. In 1950, after numerous editions had appeared and the Thesaurus had long become established as a classic, the outright copyright was purchased by Longmans, who entrusted the task of preparing a new edition to Mr. R. A. Dutch, sometime Senior Scholar of Christ’s College. Cambridge.

This edition has been arranged on exactly the same principles of classification as Roget’s original. The text has been completely rewritten and greatly expanded. There are over 50,000 new entries, and the number of cross references has been increased. The index has also been entirely revised.

Dr. Peter Mark Roget was born in Soho in 1779. A scientific prodigy, he entered the University or Edinburgh at the age of 14, and at 19 had graduated as an M.D. Subsequently he became an authority on physiology and anatomy. He invented a slide-rule, a pocket chess board, and in his spare time took up botany. It was from this pursuit that the Thesaurus was born, when the possibility occurred to him of classifying words in the way in which botanists classify plants and their families.


Published 08 Dec 1962

Dictionary of Commercial Chemicals. By F. D. Snell and C. T. Snell. 3rd edn. Pp. viii +714. London: D. Van Nostrand Co. Ltd. 1962. 97s.

The large number of chemicals recently added to those already in commercial use have now been incorporated in a revised and enlarged edition of this reference work. As in the past, it provides information on the composition of products as sold commercially and has been prepared especially for the manufacturer and others connected with the chemical industry. Technical terms have either been defined or limited to those familiar to the reader with an elementary knowledge of inorganic and organic chemistry. Chemical formulae are used in order to define briefly composition and structure.

Only items in general use are included, and the term “chemical” is used to describe basic materials as well as mixtures containing several ingredients. For each product the information supplied includes name, formula, general description, method of manufacture, common impurities or contaminants, commercial grades and uses.


Published 22 Sep 1962

Concise Chemical and Technical Dictionary. Edited by H. Bennett. 2nd edn. Pp. xxxix + 1039. New York: Chemical Publishing Co. Inc. 1962. $15.

Some 60,000 definitions, including about 5000 entries, are contained in this enlarged second edition, which covers every field of scientific and technical development. It has been prepared for both the professional scientist and the lay reader, and gives the basic technical terms internationally accepted by chemists and engineers

The present edition contains information on newly developed synthetic compounds, processes and apparatus; descriptions of the more important manufacturing techniques and machinery, raw materials and finished products.

A special feature of the dictionary is the compilation of several thousand proprietary products in such fields as synthetic resins and plastics, food, drugs and cosmetics. An addendum lists recent trade-names and definitions.


Published 29 Sep 1962

Riegel’s Industrial Chemistry. Edited by J. A. Kent. Pp. xii + 963. London: Chapman & Hall Ltd. 1962. 160s.

This reference book covers the main sections of the chemical industry, and describes fundamental chemistry, basic chemical engineering operations, economic and production aspects, and practical applications. The chemical aspects of the pharmaceutical and atomic energy industries are considered separately. Particular emphasis is given to those industries which have made rapid progress in recent years, including the plastics, rubber and man-made fibres industries. The book also contains information on industrial water supplies, the disposal of industrial wastes, fuels and their utilisation.

A large number of illustrations are provided, including process flow diagrams, production statistics, tables and diagrams of equipment.

It is now 34 years since the first edition of “Riegel” was published, and the present editor and authors maintain the tradition established by their predecessors.


Published 13 Oct 1962

Dictionary of Chemistry and Chemical Technology. In four languages: English. German. Polish and Russian. Edited by Z. Sobecka, W. Biernacki, D. Kryt and T. Zadrozna. Pp. 724. London: Pergamon Press. 1962. 200s.

This dictionary contains some 12,000 terms from all branches of theoretical and applied chemistry, chemical engineering, chemical and related technologies, and essential scientific terms frequently encountered in chemical literature. The lexicographic basis of the dictionary was provided by the chemical card register of the Technical Terminology Division of the Polish Technical Publishing Institute. This material was supplemented from recent publications in such fields as nuclear physics, radiation chemistry and plastics. Some English terms in current use have not been included because corresponding expressions do not exist in one or other of the remaining three languages.

The entries are arranged in alphabetical order of the English terms and are followed by the corresponding German, Polish and Russian terms determined from the literature of those languages. The names of chemical compounds have been restricted to group names and to particular compounds of practical importance. Many scientific names, e.g. Geneva nomenclature similarly expressed in each of the four languages, have not been included as the editors believe these would serve no useful purpose.

Immediately following the main text there is an index of English Synonyms for chemical compounds, to which the user may refer for terms not found in the main text.


Published 03 Nov 1962

Technical Market Research. By R. Williams. Pp. 18. Geneva: Roger Williams Technical & Economic Services, S.A. 1962.

This book is based on a series of lectures delivered to the Chemists’ Club of New York in January-March 1962 and subsequently edited for publication. The author describes what he believes to be the wisest method of conducting market surveys and the difficult problems involved with specialised industrial products. He claims that the rule-of-thumb methods once used by company executives in surveying markets are no longer valid, and outlines a more systematic procedure for conducting interviews, preparing reliable reports and assessing a market’s potential. The author’s style is informal and idiomatic, illustrated by a wealth of amusing personal anecdotes.

The lectures are followed by the question and answer discussions tape-recorded at the meetings.


Published 10 Nov 1962
[I assume this is the infamous Robert Maxwell, who did own Pergamon Press. Ballard dryly complains that Pasternak and Gagarin are missing.]

Information U.S.S.R. Edited and compiled by Robert Maxwell. Pp. xii + 982. Oxford: Pergamon Press Ltd. 200s.

This encyclopaedia is the first of a series of volumes that will eventually cover all the countries of the world. It will be a principle of the series that the articles in each volume will be written by authors who are nationals of and resident in the relevant country. Pages 1-763 of the present volume were translated from Volume 50 of the Great Soviet Encyclopaedia and contain articles on the geography and history of the Soviet Union, its political and governmental institutions, industry, science and the arts. There are also sections on the trade unions, sport, education, religion and the church.

Appendices are provided giving the official national census figures, addresses and departments of establishments for higher education, and a guide to foreign trade organisations in the U.S.S.R. The final appendix is a resume of the Third Programme adopted at the 22nd Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, giving its programme for the next 20 years. There are also brief biographies of some prominent Russian statesmen.

The encyclopaedia appears to contain no reference later than 1960. Among omissions are the names of Paternak and Gagarin.


Published 17 Nov 1962

Index to Reviews, Symposia Volumes and Monographs in Organic Chemistry. For the period 1940-1960. Compiled and Edited by N. Kharasch, W. Wolf and E. C. P. Harrison. Pp. vii + 345. Oxford: Pergamon Press Ltd. 70s.

Approximately 7000 references are listed in this volume, each of which, with few exceptions, was inspected by the compilers. Articles in English, French and German are included, and titles are given in English or the English equivalent. An author index allows the user to locate immediately all the works of a particular author for the period 1940-1960.

The articles included are not only those in standard review journals, but in major reference works of organic chemistry, such as the Houben-Weyl compendium and Traité de Chimie Organique.

The names of editors have been provided and the appendix contains a list of publishers’ addresses.


Published 12 Jan 1963

Practical and Industrial Formulary. By Mitchell Freeman. Pp. v + 297. New York: Chemical Publishing Co. Inc. 1962. $7.95

This book comprises a collection of formulae covering a wide field of formulated products. The contents include products under the following section headings: adhesives, cleaning preparations, cosmetics, perfume oils, perfumes, food products, furniture and metal polishes, inks, insecticides and rodenticides, paints, pharmaceuticals and proprietary preparations, stain removers and veterinary preparations. There are three appendices: weights and measures with conversion tables, composition of foods and atomic weights. There is a biography of suppliers (U.S.) of the chemicals mentioned.

The book, which is rather superficial in treatment, is unlikely to find readers among chemists working in a particular field, but may be useful for those engaged in work where acquaintance with a wide range of uses for chemicals is desirable.


Published 26 Jan 1963

Modern Cosmeticology. By R.G. Harry. Revised by J. B. Wilkinson in co-operation with R. Clark, E. Green and T. P. McLaughlin. Vol. I of The Principles and Practice of Modern Cosmetics. Pp. xxiv + 683. London: Leonard Hill (Books) Ltd. 1962. 84s.

The publication of the fifth edition of “Harry” six years after the fourth edition is an indication of the increasing speed with which cosmetic science is developing. The revision has involved the complete rewriting of several chapters with alterations and additions to all others. The chapter on toilet soap has been omitted as being impossible to deal with adequately as a manufacturing problem. The chapter on diet and health has also been omitted for reasons of space. The growing importance of pressurised packs has called for a new chapter devoted entirely to this subject.

The original author stressed the need to provide a book which was not a mere formulary, but would show the relation between cosmetic science and basic physiological principles. Newly acquired knowledge has not necessarily overthrown the older empirical formulae but has frequently provided an explanation previously lacking for their success and has indicated directions of improvement. Throughout the new revision, the revisors have successfully demonstrated these relationships.


Published 09 Feb 1963
[Ballard's longest review. Freud: ‘Royal road to the Unconscious’. Most dreams unpleasant, and get worse as we get older. Hallucinations etc if no dreaming]

The Science of Dreams. By Edwin Diamond. Pp. 246. London: Eyre & Spottiswoode Ltd. 1962. 21s.

The universal experience of dreams, and the conviction that they conceal part of man’s essential image of himself, have made them a subject of unfading interest throughout history, to the most primitive societies and the most sophisticated. One of the oldest written documents in existence, a papyrus of the 12th Dynasty, is an Egyptian book of dream interpretations, and to Freud, in the present century, the dream was “the royal road to the unconscious.” Within the last 20 years the orthodox Freudian view generally accepted in Europe and America has been amplified by work carried out by experimental psychologists in the United States. A popular account of this work is given in “The Science of Dreams.”

The hypothesis that the rapid eye movements observed at intervals throughout sleep might indicate the occurrence of a dream was apparently confirmed by the ability of subjects roused during these periods to recount their dreams with remarkable clarity and detail; this occurred in the case of persons who claimed they had never previously dreamed. Subsequent work suggested that everyone has an average of five dreams per night, each lasting 20 minutes; that contrary to popular belief digestive or emotional upsets do not affect the length or intensity of dreams, but only the ease with which they are recalled; that the majority of dreams are unpleasant and grow more so with increasing age; that even intense professional and domestic anxieties play little part in the subject matter of dreams; and that the congenitally blind experience “tactile” dreams. A curious discovery was that the deliberate deprivation of normal dreaming produced tension and irritability, even during an otherwise adequate period of sleep, and that hallucinations and psychotic collapse eventually resulted.

Despite the ingenuity and patience of the experimenters, the nature of the mechanisms generating dreams remains as elusive as ever. If anything, these studies suggest that for all its beguiling mystery the dream is merely a low-level psychic activity of little significance, perhaps similar to certain types of childhood play, and that its content, although cast in dramatic form, is of less importance than the act itself. Only where marked aberrations occur is a careful analysis of individual dreams of value to the physician. Even here, as in the experiments described, the role of the observer remains profoundly equivocal.

In view of the vast number of dreams experienced during a single lifetime, the catalogue of dreams which have furnished any major scientific revelation remains remarkably meagre; Kekulé’s vision of the benzene ring is among the few examples. Undeterred, however, the author offers his readers a simple conundrum (complete the series O, T, T, F, F,-,-) by which they can test the deductive powers of their own sleeping intelligences. No more than 15 minutes immediately before and after sleep should be devoted to the problem. Evidently some 80% of subjects tested dreamed of the problem, and a few even solved it during their dreams.

Those readers who fail to solve it may be interested to know that the Abundavita Corporation of America offers a $395 hypnopaedic “package” consisting of a gramophone, speaker and a 25-lesson course on such topics as “Money–What It Is and How to Have Plenty of It.”


Published 06 Apr 1963

Handbook of Chemistry and Physics. 44th edition. Editor in Chief: Charles D. Hodgman. Pp. xxv + 3604. Oxford: Blackwell Scientific Publications Ltd. 1963. 105s.

Continuing the past policy of the editors, the Handbook is being revised at frequent intervals. The general features and scheme of arrangement of previous editions have been retained, and the aim throughout has been to present in condensed and convenient form as large an amount of accurate and up-to-date information in the fields of chemistry and physics as possible. An attempt has been made to include material on all branches of chemistry and physics and the closely allied sciences, and the present edition contains a periodic chart, a list of atomic weights of the elements and a recalculation of the fundamental constants based upon the new atomic weights scale. Among other additions, there is a new table of physical and chemical properties of the rare earth metals and supplementary material for synthetic oils, fats and waxes.


Published 04 May 1963

Use of the Chemical Literature. Edited by R. T. Bottle. Pp. x + 231. London: Butterworth & Ltd. 1962. 35s.

Sources of information and reference available to the newly qualified chemist are now so numerous that a book designed to assist him in the selection of those most suitable for his own research work is an invaluable asset. Most of the chapters in the present book are based on lectures given at the short courses organised by Liverpool College of Technology during the past three years. Among the chapters are “Translations and their Sources with Special Reference to Russian Literature,” “Nuclear Chemistry,” “Use of Patent Literature,” “Government and Trade Publications of Interest to the Chemist,” and “History of Chemistry.” There is an appendix containing a brief glossary of terms used in photocopying and microfilming, and a selection of practical exercises, with notes on their solution, designed to familiarise the reader with the correct methods of tackling literature problems.


Published 01 Jun 1963
[In same issue as the article about the Road Research Laboratory]

Paint, Oil and Colour Year Book. 3rd edn. Pp. 401. London: Scott Greenwood & Sons Ltd. 1963. 50s.

This third edition of the Year Book is a guide to suppliers of products and equipment used in the paint, printing ink and allied industries. A number of new headings has been added to the Raw Materials and Machinery sections and the whole book has been revised to bring the sources of supply up to date.

The editors have also added to the Machinery and Equipment Section a few ancillary products, e.g. industrial detergents and paint brushes. In addition a section covering addresses of Trade Associations and Technical Societies has been added.


Published 24 Aug 1963
[Ballard has a strong relationship with the word ‘ablation’ which has meanings in surgery and space travel: ablation (surgical) — the removal of any part of the body by mechanical means; ablation (astrophysics) — the blunt end of the capsule acts as an ‘ablation shield’ for re-entry]

Encyclopedia of Chemical Technology. Vol. 1. A to Aluminium. Second Edition, completely revised. London: John Wiley & Sons Ltd. 1963. Price: £13 per volume (for subscribers to complete set of 18 volumes).

The first edition of the Encyclopedia of Chemical Technology appeared in 15 volumes, of which Volume 1, A to Anthrimides, was published in 1947, and the final volume, including the index, in 1956. A similar schedule will be maintained for the succeeding volumes of the second edition, which is a complete revision of its predecessor. All the articles on technological topics have been rewritten in many cases by different authors. The general scheme of the Encyclopedia has not been changed, but the list of titles is not exactly the same. The first two articles in this volume, Abherents and Ablation, are entirely new. Changes in format are relatively minor. The first edition concentrated on presenting United States technology; in the second edition a number of articles have been contributed from abroad, and the intention has been to present chemical technology without regard to national boundaries.


Published 05 Oct 1963

Food Processing & Packaging Directory, 1963-1964. Edited by R. De Giacomi. Pp. 1065. London: Tothill Press Ltd. 60s.

The extensive revision of the sixth edition of this directory reflects the changes that have taken place in the industry since the previous edition. The tendency towards diversification formerly noted has been superseded by a period of re-grouping and consolidation. Examples are to be found in the recent merger of the three major ice-cream producing companies, the re-grouping of the frozen food sections of two of the latter, and the disposal of its sugar confectionery interests by one of them.

One new section has been added, namely a personal index which contains all the names of the individuals listed in the Food Processors and preceding sections. A tribute is paid in the preface to the late C. L. Hinton, the compiler of the Food Standards and Regulations section of the Directory since its inception. The revision for the sixth edition has been undertaken by B. R. Knapp, the Information Officer of the British Food Manufacturing Industries Research Association, who continued this aspect of Hinton’s work at the British Food Manufacturing Industries Research Association after his retirement. All the other sections of the Directory have been retained and fully revised.


Published 19 Oct 1963
[Mention of serendipity — after Freud, Jung?]

The Flash of Genius. By A. B. Garrett. Pp. ix + 249. London: D. Van Nostrand Co. Ltd. 1963. 30s.

“The Flash of Genius” consists of accounts of 51 discoveries in the fields of physics and chemistry, as far as possible in the discoverer’s own words, describing the important event or experiment which led to the discovery. Each account is prefaced by a brief introduction which places the discovery within the context of contemporary work and knowledge. The accounts range from the discovery of oxygen in 1774 by Joseph Priestley to the discovery of penicillin by Sir Alexander Fleming and of nylon by Wallace Carothers.

The book concludes with appendixes on Serendipity, Nobel Prize-winners, the ages of discoverers, and the dates of birth and nationality of scientists.


Published 30 Nov 1963
[Ballard’s final C&I review]

Committees. How they work and how to work them. By E. Anstey. Pp. 116. London: George Allen Unwin Ltd. 1963. 15s.

This book analyses the functioning of different kinds of committee groups and describes the factors which make for efficiency or inefficiency. The author discusses different types of committee and their purposes; how to lead a discussion so as to help bring out a genuine group view; the roles of chairman and secretary; how individuals influence committee decisions; good and bad tactics; and the preparation of reports. An appendix contains the proceedings of a specimen Committee Meeting.


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