|Single-Handedly, Professor Carroll Publishes Advanced Organic Chemistry Textbook
May 17, 2010
by Kelley Beggs
Felix Carroll was joking the first time he said he would write an advanced organic chemistry textbook.
"I was in my office one day when a publisher's rep came by selling an introductory organic chemistry textbook," recalled Carroll, the Joseph R. Morton Professor of Chemistry at Davidson. "I asked him if he had any advanced books, and he said, ‘No, do you want to write one?'" In jest, Carroll responded ,"Sure!"
The publisher took him seriously, and followed up. Carroll eventually agreed, and published the book in 1997. Now, Wiley has published the second edition of Carroll's textbook Perspectives on Structure and Mechanism in Organic Chemistry.
Carroll wrote the 944-page book from his experience teaching Advanced Organic Chemistry at Davidson College. He said, "The process was cyclical. I'd start with the lectures, and then I'd write some of the book. Then, sometimes after writing a section of the book, I'd go back and change the lectures."
The textbook is appropriate for senior undergraduates and first year graduate students. The first edition was well received and used in classes at elite universities such as Harvard, UCLA, and UC Berkeley.
In 2007, Carroll decided to pursue a second edition. Carroll is the book's single author -- a rare accomplishment, since authors generally collaborate to produce works of this length and breadth. Changes from the first edition to the second edition include updated references to new literature, more study questions (nearly 400), and coverage of new material.
|Carroll has taught chemistry at Davidson since 1972.
Carroll applied a liberal arts philosophy to the book, providing the reader with a well-rounded view. "I tried to show the advantages of thinking about organic chemistry from several perspectives," he said. "We have this model and that, each with its own advantages and limitations, but if we consider all of them together we get a better, broader understanding."
Though Carroll encourages a broad understanding, the book recognizes the inherent limitations of its subject. "We have to imagine the world of atoms and molecules by creating plastic or mathematic models," he said. "We have to remember that our models are not reality."
But Carroll believes the text is comprehensive enough to cultivate the reader's imagination to its fullest potential, and he views it as a springboard for even further exploration.
He said, "I've provided complete references to encourage the reader to go to the original sources to learn more."
Davidson is a highly selective independent liberal arts college for 1,800 students located 20 minutes north of Charlotte in Davidson, N.C. Since its establishment in 1837 by Presbyterians, the college has graduated 23 Rhodes Scholars and is consistently regarded as one of the top liberal arts colleges in the country. Through The Davidson Trust, the college became the first liberal arts institution in the nation to replace loans with grants in all financial aid packages, giving all students the opportunity to graduate debt-free. Davidson competes in NCAA athletics at the Division I level, and a longstanding Honor Code is central to student life at the college.