American Chemical Society journal features “The Chemical Adventures of Sherlock Holmes”

WASHINGTON, April 25, 2011 — “Chemistry, my dear Watson, chemistry!”

A special online edition of the American Chemical Society’s Journal of Chemical Education (JCE) features a collection of mysteries based on the famous Sherlock Holmes detective series by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, but with a chemistry twist. Titled “The Chemical Adventures of Sherlock Holmes,” the series features Sherlock Holmes and his faithful companion, Dr. Watson, as they use chemistry to solve a wide range of mysteries. The journal’s first virtual issue coincides with the observance in 2011 of the International Year of Chemistry.

Holmes’s chemical adventures are the work of Thomas G. Waddell and Thomas R. Rybolt, of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, and Ken Shaw, of The Waterford School in Sandy, Utah. Norbert J. Pienta, Ph.D., editor-in-chief of JCE and professor of chemistry at the University of Iowa, noted that Waddell and Rybolt’s stories appeared from 1989 to 2004 and Shaw’s from 2008 to 2009.

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“These science ‘whodunits’ have found wide use in classrooms to illustrate chemistry topics,” Pienta said. “The virtual edition — the first for the Journal of Chemical Education — packages the whole body of 17 stories in a single convenient location.”

In a commentary, Erica K. Jacobsen, an associate editor of JCE and editor of the virtual edition, praised the collection for both its educational and entertainment value.

“Teachers, students, and chemistry aficionados alike will enjoy working through these mysteries. Each can function as an enrichment activity for students, a mind-bender for weary heads before a school vacation, an application of a recent unit’s concepts in a challenging mystery, or simply a fun evening for a teacher while unwinding from correcting a stack of lab notebooks. Whatever the use, join Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson as they travel the streets of London solving their varied chemical adventures. The game is afoot!”

For Jacobsen’s complete commentary, click here. For a prologue to the story collection, click here. The stories include:

  • Sherlock Holmes and the Yellow Prisms
  • Sherlock Holmes and the Fraudulent Ketone
  • A Christmas Story
  • The Case of the Screaming Stepfather
  • The Case of the Stoichiometric Solution
  • The Hound of Henry Armitage
  • The Problem of Woolthshrap Prison
  • Sherlock Holmes and the Nebulous Nitro
  • The Baker Street Burning
  • The Death Puzzle at 221B Baker Street
  • The Ghost of Gordon Square
  • The Shroud of Spartacus
  • The Case of Three
  • The Blackwater Escape
  • Autopsy in Blue
  • The Serpentine Remains
  • Mrs. Hudson’s Golden Brooch

Journalists can request full texts of the stories from Michael Bernstein.


Illustration of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson
from Arthur Conan Doyle’s story, “The Naval
Treaty,” published in the 1892 edition of Strand