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As a professor of chemistry for 35 years, I was always intrigued by the history of the atomic concept. For years, I had dreamed of visiting the actual places where these “atomic scientists” had lived and worked. In 1998, I had the opportunity to design a sabbatical leave from Allegheny College entitled “Scientific/Historical Travelling: A Self-Designed Tour of England, Scotland, France, Switzerland, and Germany”. The culmination of that 1998 sabbatical was a 9-week trip, the first of 12 trips involving varying degrees of traveling with the atom.

About that time, the college initiated its Allegheny College Center for Experiential Learning (ACCEL) program, through which faculty could design “travel seminars”, leading students for several weeks at a time to places all over the world to study by experiencing first-hand an issue or set of issues that were often not the primary professional interest of the faculty member. In 2002, I (along with my wife, Kitty) led “Traveling with the Atom: London and Paris” with seven students. In 2003, the college partially supported an exploratory trip to Germany, Poland, and Russia to visit more “traveling-with-the-atom” sites. In 2004, with colleagues in the economics and German departments, I co-led “Traveling in the Liberal Arts Tradition: Berlin, Leipzig, Warsaw and Prague” with 19 students. Retiring early gave my wife and I the opportunity to continue travel focused on the history of the atom and to start putting together the book you have in front of you. We have now been scientific/historical travelers for more than twenty years and have visited England, Scotland, Ireland, Canada, France, the Netherlands, Denmark, Switzerland, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Italy, the Czech Republic, Poland, Russia, and New Zealand. For more details on these trips, the reader can consult

Modeled after the way my wife and I (and occasionally other fellow travelers) traveled together, Traveling with the Atom, although decidedly a travel book first and foremost, became a way to prepare scientists, their students, friends, and companions to best appreciate sites they were about to visit. Given the dearth of information in traditional guidebooks, we wanted travelers to think about scientific sites as they planned their travels. An important secondary goal of the book was to demonstrate to the traveler that humankind only slowly and haltingly unraveled these atomic insights. In addition to describing the actual sites, it became important to remind fellow travelers that the pathway to the modern atom is one characterized by ingenious experiments and clear-headed observations as well as serendipitous accidents and irrelevant or ill-conceived manipulations; by great insights as well as wrong-headed ideas; by persuasive arguments by humble men and women as well as pig-headed opinions driven by big egos; by logical discussions, papers, and meetings, as well as by personal attacks, stinging diatribes, and heated debates. As a result, this book relates many of the fascinating stories associated with the development of the atomic concept. For the scientifically literate, the background it provides will serve to jog the memory and remind us of what we might have recently studied in school, or perhaps what we read or studied a number of years ago. For others not so familiar with the history of the atom, it hopefully provides a framework sufficient to help understand the significance of a given site, experiment, person, or piece of equipment. The book, then, focusses on two types of landmarks – the temporal landmarks of the history of the atomic concept and the physical landmarks that have been preserved all over the European continent to commemorate this achievement.

The author being a chemical educator and not someone trained in the history of chemistry, physics, and/or science in general, this book should not be viewed as an authoritative capsule history of the atom. The historical aspects are somewhat driven by the commemorations one finds on the ground in Europe and a few places farther abroad. For example, if there are great sites devoted to Dmitri Mendeleev, the book dwells a bit on him and perhaps not so much on others who devised the predecessors to the periodic table.

Travel sites are rated from one to five atoms on a somewhat arbitrary scale based on their perceived appeal to travelers interested in the history of the atomic concept. A physical address, a set of coordinates and a brief description of the site are always provided. These things change, of course, so it's important to check them out a little before setting out on a trip. provides a “Travelers Exchange” forum where travelers can exchange information, share experiences, and ask questions of each other and the author. I invite you to contribute to this forum.

What fun it has been to be in touch with folks all over Europe and beyond about the places we initially wanted to visit and, often, other places that had not occurred to us. Listing people who have encouraged us, guided us, physically met with us, even shared a meal with us, etc. is always a little chancy because, for sure, we do not want to omit those who have contributed so much to our travels. Nevertheless, one should give this a try. So here we go.

Dr John Reglinski, Department of Chemistry, Strathclyde University and, with his wife, Susan, gracious hosts in Scotland; Christopher Cooksey at University College London; Dr Peter Morris formerly the Senior Curator, Experimental Chemistry, at The Science Museum; Yvonne Twomey (scientific tour leader); Dr Peter Wothers, then at St. Catharine's College, Cambridge; Dr Stephen Johnson, the Museum of the History of Science; Christiane Delpy of the National Technical Museum (Paris); Magnus Mueller at the Liebig-Museum; Dr Frank A. J. L. James, then Reader in History of Science, The Royal Institution; Dr Gordon L. Squires, then curator of the new Cavendish Laboratory Museum; Katie Eagleton (student tour guide of scientific sites in Cambridge); Dr Rosamund Cleal, curator, the Great Circle of Avebury; Ms Ginette Gablot of Parcours des Sciences in Paris; Dr Lionel Beluze, tour guide for Parcours des Sciences; Dr Thierry Leland, curator of scientific instruments at the Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers (Paris); Dr and Mrs Phillip Wolfe, Allegheny College Professor of French (hosts and tour leaders, Paris); Dr Antonio Moskwa, Allegheny Professor of Economics and co-leader of 2003 tour; Dr Peter Ensberg, Allegheny Professor of German (co-leader, host in Germany); Karl and Anna-Elisabeth Hansel, then at the Wilhelm-Ostwald-Gesellschaft zu Grossbothen (Anna is Ostwald's great grand-daughter); Dr Karl Doblhofer at Fritz Haber Institute and, with his wife, Heide, gracious hosts in Berlin and Potsdam; Martin Fuchs, Fritz Haber Institute, Berlin-Dahlem; Dr Eckart Henning, then Director at the Max Planck Institute (M-P-Gesellschaft); Dr Siegfried Richter at the Clemens Winkler Laboratory Museum; Christopher Hamilton (adviser, St. Petersburg, Russia); Dr Igor S. Dimitriev, director of D. I. Mendeleev Museum and Archives; Eleonora Dubovitzykaya at the Museum and Archive; Dr Richard Cook, President of Allegheny College (participant, first week of 2004 tour and interpreter at the Ostwald Energy House); Rupert Baker, Library Manager at The Royal Society; Dr Michael Hunter, Director of the “The Boyle Project” at Birkbeck College; Christine Reynolds, then the Assistant Keeper of the Muniments, Westminster Abbey; Mary Hoolihan, then Curator at the Lismore Heritage Center; Dr Tracy Popey (former student and valued tour guide in Germany); Dr David Sartori (former student and valued tour guide in Germany); Dr Roland Weigand, host at the Röntgen Rooms, Wurzburg; Dr Lucio Fregonese, host at Volta Cabinet, Pavia; Dr Anna Giatti, host at Fondazione Scienza e Tecnica, Florence; Dr Giorgio Strano, host at the History of Science Museum (Museo di Storia della Scienza) now the Galileo Museum in Florence; Dr Giovanni Battinelli, then historian of physics and our host at the Physics Department, University of Rome; Felicity Pors, archivist and host, Niels Bohr Institute; Alexander Knapp (friend and tour guide, London); Stuart Martin, then Secretary/Treasurer, the Priestley Society and host in Leeds; Capt. Duncan Ferguson, The Maxwell at Glenlair Trust, host at the Glenlair House; David Forfar, then Chairman of The Maxwell Foundation; Dr John Arthur at the Maxwell Foundation and tour leader on “Maxwell Walking Tour”; Jenny Stuart, Lead Visitor Co-ordinator, Rutherford's Den, Christchurch, NZ; Dr Norman Pohl, Director of “Historicum”, TU Bergakademie Freiberg; Dr Edwin Kroke, Department of Chemistry and Physics, TU Bergakademie Freiberg; Anton N. Pronin, Acting Director, D. I. Mendeleev Institute for Metrology; Elena Ginak, Director of Metrological Museum, St. Petersburg.

Students on our two traveling-with-the-atom trips had to prepare to briefly speak about two topics during the trip. Often, these were delivered on the way to a site or even on-site at an appropriate place. For example, we gathered around the statue of Marie Skladovska-Curie at the Curie Cancer Centre in Warsaw and a student spoke about Curie's activities during World War I. Another student spoke to us about Benjamin Franklin as we all stood at the base of his statue close-by to the Eiffel Tour in Paris. These talks contributed greatly to the group's understanding of the significance of a person, place, theory or experiment related to the history of the atom. We all, students and faculty alike, greatly benefitted from these well-prepared presentations.

Student participants in “Traveling with the Atom: London and Paris”, Allegheny College ACCEL Study Tour, 2002: John Krempecki, Julie Langsdale, Colby Mangini, Andrea Price, Colleen Riley, Charlie Ruggiero, and Jennifer Sexton.

Student participants in “Traveling in the Liberal Arts Tradition: Berlin, Leipzig, Warsaw and Prague, Allegheny College ACCEL Study Tour, 2004: Maria Batarce, Martin Bobak, Alexis Book, William Eckenhoff, Matthew Giordanengo, Derek J. Golna, Matthew W. Gonzalev, David Iberkleid, John T. Krempecki, Caroline Lang, Kimberly M. Lorenz, Beverly Lytle, Donald M. Marsh III, Kristin S. Marstellar, Cole M. Maxwell, Thomas J. Miller III, Maura Perry, Roger E. Pogozelski, and Colleen Zink.

Writing a book is one thing, identifying a publisher is another. Judy Mullins, a friend and freelance editor, helped me get started in pinpointing a market and writing a more succinct “elevator pitch” summarizing the project. Special thanks go out to Dr Peter Morris for his encouragement in the final phases of writing and his invaluable advice on publishing houses that would be the most receptive to this work. Professor Mary Virginia Orna at the College of New Rochelle also provided encouragement at a crucial time in the writing and was especially helpful about how to construct a comprehensive book proposal. Drew Gwilliams, Commissioning Editor, Books, at The Royal Society of Chemistry has been a positive force in publishing this book from the moment it crossed his desk. His quick, reassuring, and consistently encouraging correspondence have made writing for the RSC a most pleasurable endeavor. Katie Morrey, Editorial Assistant, RSC, has made handling the details of the publishing process much easier.

Support from family always makes a difference to an author, particularly one sometimes too engrossed in his projects. Daughters Jennifer, Emily, and Rebecca, now establishing their own careers and families, still encourage their father's writing endeavors, and what a blessing that is. My wife, Kitty, as detailed in the dedication, has always had time for seemingly countless conversations about the uncertainties, frustrations, challenges, joys, and rewards of an academic life. Now we continue to share a love of scientific/historical traveling and all the myriad aspects of life “on the road”. Traveling with the Atom would never have come to pass without her encouragement, praise, love, and support.

Glen E. Rodgers

From the shores of a wooded, New Hampshire pond

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