Shifting and Rearranging
Physical Methods and the Transformation of Modern Chemistry

Carsten Reinhardt


2006, 438 pp., illust., clothbound and jacketed, ISBN 0-88135-354-X, $49.95

Shifting and Rearranging

In the second half of the twentieth century, chemistry underwent a profound transformation. Its object of examination, the chemical substance, was transmuted into abstract structure; its most important method, the chemical reaction, was supplemented by physical methods; and its practitioner, the chemist, was partially displaced by technical instruments. At the center of this transformation were physical methods. As much as shifts of data in nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy and molecular rearrangements in mass spectrometry were used to interpret the results obtained by these techniques, so their adoption in chemistry was bound to shifts and fundamental rearrangements of the discipline—from the Preface


…Carsten Reinhardt has delivered a particularly useful and well-written study. This book will become nothing less than a standard in the history and philosophy of chemistry.”—HYLE, Vol. 15, No.1

“…Shifting and Rearranging is an outstanding, well-illustrated book and a step forward in documenting the history of modern chemical instrumentation. It deserves to be read by chemists and historians alike.”— Chemical Heritage

“… Reinhardt is an especially skilled narrator, and his recounting of the twists and turns of early NMR and mass spectrometry as applied to organic chemistry is captivating. He is also very good at describing the industry-university nexus, pointing out, for example, that instrument makers such as Varian Associates initiated training for users at universities…” —American Scientist, March-April 2007

“… based on many years of study, including interviews and archival research. This meticulously documented work is a most important contribution to the history of how physical methods have changed the modern chemical sciences. It is more than a book on the history of chemistry, though, for it also adds significantly to the history of scientific instruments and our understanding of the intimate connection between science and industry in the period from about 1950 to 1970…” Isis, June 2007

“…Das Buch is ein ausgezeichnetes und bedeutendes Werk der Wissenschaftsgeschichte. Carsten Reinhardt ist zu dieser detaillierten Darstellung einiger der wichtigsten historischen Entwicklungen in der Chemie zu beglückwünschen—eine faszinierende Lektüre!” —Angew. Chem. 2007, 4902-4903

“…The work is very appropriately directed to an academic audience. The author’s arguments are clear, illustrations and figures appropriate, and his footnotes comprehensive (linked to a full bibliography). But the most important feature of this book for future research will perhaps not be Reinhardt’s arguments, but his assiduous archival research. He has tracked down and plumbed the personal papers of many of his central characters, often still held privately, such as those of Klaus Biemann, Richard R. Ernst, Herbert S. Gutowsky, and John D. Roberts. This is certain to become a central reference for historians of the interaction between technology and the physical sciences in the postwar period.”—History and Technology

“Ein sehr schönes informatives Buch. Es gibt einen akkuraten und spannenden Einblick in einen Teil der Wissenschaftsgeschichte der letzten 50 Jahre”. — Richard R. Ernst. Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 1991

“To some, the twentieth century was the century of physics. To others, it was the chemical century. To those on both sides of this divide and to anyone with an abiding interest in the history of science, Carsten Reinhardt’s book, Shifting and Rearranging, is required reading…Scientists and historians will find much of value in the book. It is sophisticated in its approach to history and lucid in its handling of technical information. The book is a major milestone in the history of twentieth-century science and technology.” —Leo B. Slater

“…In conclusion, Reinhardt’s book is the first-class result of a long and thoughtful research. The most important result obtained by Reinhardt is the demonstration of the interplay of so many factors in the social construction of the core of a scientific discipline: its knowledge procedures.”—NUNCIUS