General Chemistry – Atoms First (2nd edition)
Our primary purpose in writing this book has been to fashion a clear and cohesive introductionto chemistry, covering both important principles and important facts. We write to explain chemistry to students today the way we wish it had been explained to us years ago when we were students ourselves. We can’t claim that learning chemistry will always be easy, but we can promise that we have done our best in planning, writing, and illustrating this book to make the learning process as smooth as possible.
Perhaps the first thing you will notice about this book is that its organization is different from that of other general chemistry textbooks. Rather than follow the typical ordering of topics, in which stoichiometry and aqueous reactions come first, this book takes what has come to be called an atoms-first approach. Instead of launching immediately into stoichiometry, we start at the logical beginning of the chemical story by discussing atoms—their history, stability, electronic structure, and consequent periodicity. This approach makes it possible to tell a cohesive story about chemistry that follows an intuitive logic in progressing from the simplest building blocks to successively more complex concepts.
Once atoms have been fully described in Chapters 1 and 2, we proceed next to discuss how and why atoms bond together to make chemical compounds. Ion formation and ionic bonding come first, in Chapter 3, followed by covalent bonding and the structures of molecules in Chapters 4 and 5. This organization takes students immediately into real chemistry rather than making them first spend time with chemical arithmetic. Only then, when all the fundamental pieces are in place, are chemical reactions and stoichiometric mass relationships introduced in Chapters 6 and 7.
At this point in the narrative, the ordering of topics becomes more familiar, starting with thermochemistry and chemical energy (Chapter 8), moving to bulk properties of pure substances (Chapters 9–10), and continuing with the properties of solutions (Chapter 11) and with all the topics necessary for a study of chemical transformations: kinetics, equilibrium, thermodynamics, and electrochemistry (Chapters 12–17). Then, in Chapters 18–21, the concepts described in earlier chapters are applied to discussing the chemistry of main-group and transition elements, metals, and modern solid-state materials. The book ends with a chapter devoted to nuclear transformations followed by a brief look at organic and biological chemistry.
It’s important to note that our atoms-first approach is not the same thing as ‘theory first.’ Science nearly always begins with observation and experiment, and only later are theories developed to explain observations. While we begin with atoms and move on logically to increasing complexity, we do not put theory before experiment. For instance, we do not put the kinetic-molecular theory before the gas laws or the collision theory before rate laws. Our objective throughout is to present chemistry in the way that science actually works.
To help students succeed in learning chemistry, we have put extraordinary effort into this book. Transitions between topics are smooth, explanations are lucid, and reminders of earlier material are frequent. Insofar as possible, distractions within the text are minimized. Each chapter is broken into numerous sections to provide frequent breathers, and each section has a consistent format. Sections generally begin with an explanation of their subject, move to a Worked Example that shows how to solve problems, and end with one or more Problems for the reader to work through. Each chapter ends with a brief FYI (including five that are new to this edition) that describes an interesting application or extension of the chapter topic. Throughout the book, every attempt has been made to explain chemistry in a visual and intuitive way so that it can be understood by all who give it an honest effort.
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