Reviewed by Harry S. Chou - October 9, 2015
Let's face it. You cannot 'master' geology without having a solid grounding in chemistry. However, many students are now entering college without having taken chemistry in high school, or who have taken introductory chemistry but still do not have a solid understanding of the fundamentals of this key science. The third edition of Chemical Fundamentals of Geology and Environmental Geoscience by Robin Gill will meet the needs of geoscience majors entering college without a strong understanding of the basics of chemistry, as well as for those needing a quick refresher on the subject.
This book was first published in 1989, and in each of its incarnations the author has striven to make the book more accessible to students without any chemistry background, while at the same time increasing its usefulness to more advance students. This, the new third edition of the text which was released in 2015, meets all these goals admirably. While this book does not cover as much material as a two-semester general chemistry course, it does provide students with the basic chemistry that they will need to know for their lower-level geology and geoscience courses, while giving them time to take a more advanced chemistry course, if it required by their degree program. In addition, for those entering graduate school or mature students returning to college years after having taken chemistry, this book will prove useful as a refresher course that they can complete on their own or in a classroom setting.
Throughout, the author assumes that the student has had no prior exposure to chemistry, and as such also includes very little math in the text, thereby also increasing the accessibility of the book. Although this book provides an excellent starting point for geology and environmental geoscience students to begin their study of chemistry, it should not be considered a comprehensive text and they should be prepared to take more advance chemistry courses in the future.
While on the surface this may sound like this is a remedial chemistry text, it is not. Rather, instead of trying to teach every aspect of chemistry, Gill has chosen to focus upon the fundamentals of chemistry that are most relevant to the study of geology. He has done this in order to prepare students with no, or little, background in chemistry, for their basic geology classes and to prepare them to take more advance chemistry courses. Within the narrow scope the text, students will find that the material is 'meaty' enough to satisfy both novice and more advanced students while also being rigorous in its methodology. As well, while Gill has kept the math to a minimum, it is still present, but it does not really require anything more advanced than basic algebra.
The material in this book is organized into three main sections. The first section deals with the basics of physical chemistry and it begins with a description of what energy is and takes the reader on a journey through equilibrium in geological systems, kinetics, and the hydrosphere. The second section of the book deals with such topics as chemical bonding, atoms, the periodic table, and silicate crystals and their chemical structure. The final section of this book deals with the elements that are important to geology, isotopes, and elements common throughout the universe. In all cases, the topics covered in this book focus upon their application and importance within the realm of geologic study.
In all, there are eleven chapters in this book, and they can easily be covered in a one semester class, or expanded to a two-semester course if supplemental material is included. Each chapter ends with a list of further readings and some review exercises. Many of the chapters also include a chapter review. Answers to the exercises can be found at the end of the book, making this book an excellent resource for those using it as a refresher and for self-learners. In addition, the text includes several handy appendices that expand upon such topics as the mathematics related to geochemistry, an overview of simple solution chemistry, a list of chemical abbreviations and element names, and a list of symbols, units, constants and abbreviations that you will find throughout the book. A handy glossary has also been included. There is also a companion website for the text, but it is primarily geared toward instructors.
In short, Chemical Fundamentals of Geology and Environmental Geoscience is a highly readable and informative textbook that will quickly introduce students, even those without any background in chemistry, to the fundamental scientific principles of chemistry as it relates to geology and earth systems. The text has been around for a number of years, and seems poised to remain a leading introductory textbook on chemistry for Geoscience majors. As mentioned before, in addition to being a great textbook for use in a classroom setting, it is also ideal for use as a refresher text, and for motivated self-learners to prepare themselves before embarking upon a more challenging chemistry course.
Geology Super Review, by the Staff of Research & Education Association.
This is a handy review guide that covers the fundamentals of both physical and historical geology. It is perfect for those just looking for a general overview of the subject, as well as, for both high school and college, who are looking for a study guide on basic geology.
Introduction to Radioactive Minerals, by Robert Lauf.
Focusing on uranium and thorium, this book provides an excellent introduction to radioactive minerals, including how they are formed, mined, and used. It also provides advice on how and where you can collect them.
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