Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science

Degree Discipline



Chemistry in American high schools shows, like "biology and physics, the strong impact of early collegiate domination In the earliest American secondary school, the Latin grammar school, no science whatever was taught. The first school was intended to prepare students to read Latin, and preferably Greek also, in preparation for college. Colleges then were a far cry from those of the present; their major concern was the preparation of young men for the ministry.

Later the academies, like that founded in 1750 "by Benjamin Franklin, presented a more varied and practical course of study including some science. But there was still no chemistry until the "beginning of the nineteenth century. Then, when the establishment of the public high school had begun, and after Lavoiser and Priestly had furnished chemistry with its first concepts and procedures, chemistry gradually appeared in the American high school. For the most part, this earliest chemistry, like botany and zoology, was taught catechistically as a series of teacher questions and student answers enlivened with dramatic demonstrations: the volcano and assorted odors. In the early 1800s chemistry was considered for some reason, a science most fit for young ladies, and many of the "female academies" advertised "a good chemical apparatus." Others foresaw the industrial and agricultural importance of chemistry and urged its teaching as a means of avoiding the necessity of importing chemicals from Europe. But generally, there was no central purpose to the new course either in the colleges or in the high schools.

During and after the Civil War chemistry became more popular, and laboratory work for both boys and girls was stressed. In part, this stemmed from a wide acceptance of Eroebel's emphasis upon work with the hands as a form of creative expression, and in part, from the success of the chemical theory of Avogadro as clarified by the Cannizzaros in 1859. Now there was something to teach and a way of going about teaching it. Seemingly with more enthusiasm than wisdom, the "discovery method," or heuristic approach was hailed as the key to all science teaching. By learning how to discover in science, students would be able not only to observe better but to do better. In chemistry, as in the other sciences, laboratory work was the panacea, and the unattainable objectives were propounded.


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Date of Digitization


Contributing Institution

John B Coleman Library

City of Publication

Prairie View





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