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HOME > ON THE BOOKSHELF > July-August 2012 > Bookshelf Detail


Silicones and Their Uses, by Rob Roy McGregor

Kirtley F. Mather

Vol. 42, No. 2 (APRIL 1954)

SILICONES AND THEIR USES, by Rob Roy McGregor; xv + 302 pages; 33 tables, 20 figs.; $6.00; McGraw-Hill, 1954.

No better illustration of the creative power of science could be found than that supplied by the diversified class of synthetic materials known as silicones. In the last ten years these new oils, resins, and rubbers have suddenly emerged from academic laboratories to become the center of interest in many an industrial research laboratory and to find unexpected application in an astonishingly wide variety of commercial products. The very multiplicity of forms and uses makes it difficult for those not specializing in silicon chemistry, or well-informed concerning high polymers, to get an understanding of what is meant when the word “silicone” is used. This extremely interesting book meets a very real need.

McGregor is an Administrative Fellow of the Mellon Institute. He has been assisted in the preparation of the book by many chemists with whom he has been associated either in that institution or in the laboratories of the Dow Corning Corporation, as well as by several other experts in this field. The book is not intended primarily for chemists—the recently published treatises by Rochow and Post are their meat—but is an extremely valuable manual for those concerned with the use of silicones in practical ways, as well as for the general reader alert to the new developments in science and industry. The chapter on the history of silicones is an especially significant illustration of the ways in which science has become the servant of mankind.

Kirtley F. Mather (1888–1978), the first editor of American Scientist's Scientists' Bookshelf, was a geologist and professor at Harvard University. He served as president of AAAS in the 1950s, during which time he also spoke out against the McCarthy-era inquisitions. This was not the first time Mather had advocated for freedom of expression: In the 1930s, he refused to take a "teachers' oath" proposed by the Massachusetts state legislature. In a 1996 biographical sketch of Mather for GSA Today, Kennard B. Bork notes, "Mather was happy to pledge allegiance to the federal government when he was inducted into the U.S. Army, but he rebelled against state fealty oaths for faculty members at private universities." Among Mather's books are The Earth Beneath Us (1964) and, with coauthor Dorothy Hewitt, Adult Education: A Dynamic for Democracy (1937). Bork's 1994 biography of Mather is titled Cracking Rocks and Defending Democracy.

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