It's All Greek to Me
Chemistry etymology: how the language of a small country can make a big difference
Victoria Samanidou | | Opinion
When I attended a Master’s Thesis Defense in Austria some years ago, I was astonished to hear one student asked (among other things) about the etymology of the term “chromatography.” I thought, “OK, that’s a good way to break the ice in what is an admittedly awkward situation – being questioned in front of a live audience.” But it would appear I was wrong. The question posed was a serious one, which made the student uncomfortable and didn’t prove so easy to answer.
I love to narrate this true story to my sixth semester students of instrumental analytical chemistry. I feel it’s important to familiarize the students with scientific terms when I teach the introductory chapters of chromatographic techniques, but I always receive the same reaction. They don’t believe it is pragmatic. For them, the meaning of the word is more than obvious. Chromatography is derived from Greek words: chroma (color) and graphein (to write).
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