Virtual Winter School on Computational Chemistry

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Writing (and Drawing) as Thinking

Speaker: Professor Jeff Kovac
Speaker Link:
Institute: University of Tennessee Knoxville
Country: USA

Professor Jeffrey Kovac

Professor of Chemistry and Director of College Scholars, Emeritus, University of Tennessee

In this presentation I will explore the roles of writing and drawing in the practice of chemistry.  The traditional view is that research, experimental or theoretical, is the essence of chemistry and that “writing up” the results is a necessary evil.  I will argue that this is incorrect and that writing is essential to the development of chemistry (and other sciences).  I will also explore the role of drawings, what Roald Hoffmann calls the iconic vernacular, in both thinking and communication and the importance of conceptual metaphors.  Finally, I hope to briefly discuss how chemistry can contribute to creative writing.



Roald Hoffmann, “Under the Surface of the Chemical Article,” Angewandte Chemie, International Edition, 17, 1593-1602 (1988)

Roald Hoffmann and Pierre Laszlo, “Representation in Chemistry,” Angewandte Chemie, International Edition, 30, 1-16 (1991)

Jeffrey Kovac, “Writing as Thinking,” in Chemical Explanation: Characteristics, Development, Autonomy, edited by Joseph E. Earley, Sr., Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 988, 233-238 (2003) (also on-line URL:

Theodore L. Brown, Making Truth: Metaphor in Science, Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2003

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