Chemistry is one of the oldest sciences, with a distinguished history of intellectual and practical achievement. Chemists consider it the "central science," interacting with physics as well as with biology, with engineering, and with materials science. The names of some subfields tell this story: physical chemistry and chemical physics, biochemistry and chemical biology, medicinal chemistry, neurochemistry, petroleum chemistry, polymer chemistry, agricultural chemistry.

Chemistry courses in colleges traditionally are among the largest, in part because chemical training is needed not only for future chemists, but also for doctors, pharmacists, biologists, engineers, and nurses. Trained chemists are in demand in the chemical and pharmaceutical industries--industries in which the United States is highly competitive--and in many other fields.

Despite all this, chemistry suffers from an image problem. It is not always seen to be the science where the action is. In some quarters, chemophobia has also led to a negative stereotype and a...

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