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Nix to Redox
Written about 1964 (pseudonymously)

A DISSERTATION ON REACTIONS
INVOLVING ELECTRON TRANSFER

by Prof. THEODORE ROCKHOLD, D.Sc.
head, chemistry department
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

 
In my many years in my profession, I have found that scientific terminology, as a whole, is remarkably accurate.  There is a carefully-defined term to describe every process in the field of chemistry, from simple ionization to the most complex reactions.

However, some of these terms have become rather outdated.  The one which particularly distresses me is an exceedingly common one, but it nonetheless is a misnomer:  the "oxidation-reduction" reaction.

Originally, oxidation meant the chemical uniting of a substance with oxygen.

(Note to laymen:  this is the process that takes place when something burns or rusts.)

Reduction meant the removal of the oxygen from an oxidized substance.

(Note to laymen:  this process got its name because it is used to reduce ores to the elementary-metal state.)

But, in recent years, the definition has been considerably broadened.  Now oxidation means the losing of electrons to some substance which is called the oxidizing agent, and reduction means the regaining of those electrons.

(Note to laymen:  electrons are tiny parts of the atom which are of prime importance in chemical reactions.)

By this broader definition, when a substance is oxidized it may combine with oxygen; but it many cases it combines with some other element, such as sulphur, fluorine, chlorine, et cetera.  And when it is reduced, its number of electrons is not reduced but increased.  As Plato said, "Kynosis anopodes acthykus!"

(Note to laymen:  this means "the terms are contradictory."  [But see also here.])

Are we still living in the age of the alchemists?  Must we continue to labor under their outmoded terminology?  Must we pause every few moments to convert another archaic expression into words we can understand?  Minime!

(Note to laymen:  this means "no.")

I propose a remedy to the situation:  change the name of the reaction that is causing us so much trouble.  Since other famous scientists have had terms named after them, I humbly offer my name of Rockhold to take the place of the confusing word "oxidation."

Of course, the opposite of Rockholdization would become deRockholdization, thus replacing the even more confusing word "reduction."

And the vulgar contraction of the name for the process taken as a whole, "redox" (from reduction-oxidation), could be replaced by the much more euphonious term "Rockholdization-deRockholdization reaction."

Om yjod esu. er eo;; r;o,omsyr s;; vpmgidopm pbrt yrt,omp;phu smf eo;; rmyrt s mre rts pg dvormyogof rcvr;;rmvr/

 

EDITOR'S NOTE:  Dr. Rockhold may have slipped into Greek for the last sentence of his manuscript, but we believe that his typewriter became so overworked from typing "Rockholdization-deRockholdization reaction" yjsy oy gso;rf yp eptl [tp[rt;u/

 

TBT see also this note

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