In the second part of his series, Retread lays out his first impressions of Jones vis-à-vis his previous orgo text in grad school, English & Cassidy.
The book for my first Organic Chemistry course (’58 – ‘59) was English and Cassidy, 2nd edition, ‘56. Jones is the 2004 edition.
………………………………………English & Cassidy Jones
Pages (text only) 442 1323
Page size (inches) 9 x 6 10 x 8
Text width 4.5 5.25
Text height 7.0 8.50
The most striking difference is the graphics. There were only six 3-dimensional representations in the first 100 pages of Cassidy, while Jones has TNTC (too numerous to count). It is hard to find a page in Jones without one.
The tone is completely different. Jones is chatty and conversational. “Remarks for the Student” in E&C begins as follows: ”It is usually taken for granted that the student who takes up the study of organic chemistry has a thorough knowledge of first-year college chemistry.” Not too warm and fuzzy.
One of the very best things about Jones, is that he tells you what is hard, and what you must learn. “The (R, S) convention looks a bit complicated. It is easier than it appears right now, but it just must be learned and cannot be reasoned out.” Repeat this advice 50,000 times and you’re through med school. There is no reason the appendix is on the right, the heart is on the left, speech is usually in the left hemisphere etc. etc. Jones also tells you what looks hard but really isn’t — drawing cyclohexane in the chair form for instance.
Another very good thing about Jones (which may seem rather trivial) is that when he points you back, he gives you a page number to go to. On retirement from medicine, I indulged a lifelong taste for math by auditing some math courses (number theory, abstract algebra, algebraic geometry) at the local colleges. Math books almost never repeat anything. You are referred back to theorem 10.3 (and have to hunt for it). There are hundreds of theorems, corollaries etc. in the average upper level math book. It gets irritating unless you have a completely flawless memory.
Also, math books don’t usually tell you what’s really important, and what will be used later. Not all results are equally crucial for the argument. On reading it for the first time, you can’t tell the wheat from the chaff. Jones is excellent at this.
In one sense, the two books can’t be compared, just as stereos back then and now can’t be. I worked all summer as a supermarket checker at $1/hour before entering college in ‘56 and bought an RCA Victor record player to take with me for $140. The richest man in the world back then could not buy sound of today’s quality no matter what he was prepared to spend.
However today’s convenience store worker would have to work considerably more hours to buy Jones (167.74) and the answer book (80.59) than I would have had to for English & Cassidy back then. I asked the student checking me out how anyone could afford books like
these. He said that often students bought a single textbook and shared it. Shades of the 19th century Ghetto. My grandfather told me how there were people who could only read Hebrew upside down, or at a 45 degree angle, because 4 – 6 students would sit around the same table and study the same page at the same time.
One final point. Despite the dryness, formality, lack of graphics etc. etc. not much harm was done. I liked the book back then as did most of us. This includes Jones himself (Yale ‘59), who almost certainly used the book, as English and Cassidy were Yale professors and the first edition came out in ‘49.