KABOOM! Chemistry Sets and Young Scientists



There was a very enjoyable article in the Christmas Day New York Times entitled: “Gifts That Keep Giving (if Not Exploding").  The piece, by Jennifer A. Kingson, certainly supports my belief that the toy store and aisle are the gateway to the professions.  Here is how she opens her article: “Ask scientists of a certain age about their childhood memories, and odds are they’ll start yarning about the stink bombs and gunpowder they concocted with their chemistry sets.”


Today’s chemistry sets are tamer than those of earlier times.  In fact, at one time they included radioactive ore.  Maybe that’s why I glow in the dark.

Never-the-less, there was something exciting about blowing things up.  In fact, it was a great way for older kids to tease younger ones.   I can remember when I was six years old an older kid dropping something liquid from his chemistry set on my head and telling me it would make be bald.  That big kid (and you know who you are David) was of course only teasing me.  It did, however, just occur to me that I am bald; could it be…?

Do you have chemistry set stories?  If so, let us know.

4 thoughts

  1. @ Mike,
    Believe or not, Toys R Us carries a wide selection of science items and in fact carries a chemistry set that has those very chemicals in it. For the budding scientists TOys R Us should be on the list of places to try, even though they failed to mention them in the NYT article.

  2. I just posted a comment and forgot to mention that chemicals were freely available in hobby stores in the the 1960s. That’s not the case now. Please edit previous comment to explain this.

  3. I had a chemistry set as a kid in the 1960s and went on to get an MSc in chemistry. This holiday season I wanted to revisit my childhood and requested a chemistry set from my wife. You would not believe how watered down they are and how difficult it is to buy chemicals freely available in hobby stores (no, not acetone, but copper sulfate, nickel sulfate, alums, etc. to make crystals). Chemical supply houses would not sell to a non-institutional entity, fearing, I guess, liability issues. I will spend more effort on microscopy instead.

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