John Grant

In existographies, John F. Grant (1892-1949) was an American physician noted for his “Chemical Sociology” article, wherein presents what he calls "chemical sociology", i.e. chemistry defined in sociological terms.

In c.1940, Grant penned “Chemical Sociology”, wherein he anthropomorphized the elements and stepped through a Goethe chapter four, Henry Bray, and Chemical Party stylized presentation of reactions, albeit mostly done in a humorous sense, a copy of which was given to his long-term friend Alexander A. Day, a professor of bacteriology, who then got the article published posthumously in Quarterly Bulletin of Northwestern University Medical School.

Male | Female
Grant opens his article to the loose analogy that the left side of the periodic table holds the male-like elements and the left side holds the female-like elements; he says, e.g., that sulfur is bisexual:

“Nor should we scorn these unfortunate individuals who live so close to the line dividing the sexes that they themselves do not seem to know to which sex they belong. Thus, sulfur may play a male role in S02 and a female part in H2S though it must he conceded that in either case the combination exudes a very foul odor.”

This, in some sense, is reminiscent of Joseph Dewey's male and female ideas in his 1988 The Molecular Relationship.

NaCl + AgNO3
The following is Grant’s take on sodium chloride reacting with silver nitrate:

“NaCl plus AgNO3 equal AgCI plus NaNO3. This is not just a dry formula, it is a story of a romance in a test tube. It can be visualized. Sodium and Chlorine (if you are incurably facetious you may crass out the I) are fondly attached to each other and nothing obtrudes upon their felicity. The same is true of that refined gentleman Silver and his rather commonplace friend Nitrate (NO3 to her friends). But one day NaCl and AgNO3 attend the same party [see: Chemical Party]. They enter into solution, not an unusual form of activity in chemical society. All four are in festive mood; in fact, when they enter solution they are actively ionized and start to wander about separately. Silver soon meets Chlorine and immediately loses his electron to her. In less technical language lie falls for her and she falls for him. In fact they both fall; to the bottom of the test tube. But, Silver is a gentleman and not given to casual attachments and when he unites it is for keeps so he and Chlorine drop out of solution to live forever (or almost forever) in molecular bliss. Poor Sodium has lost his partner and so has Nitrate but Sodium is a rugged fellow and NO3 is not too particular so they clasp valencies and continue on quite unperturbed.”


Grant completed hid MD at Northwestern University Medical School in 1917, after which he worked for 29 years as a practicing obstetrician and pediatrician in Long Beach, California.

Quotes | By
The following are quotes by Grant:

“It is quite possible that the chemist in his laboratory, his hands blackened with sulfides, his nostrils protesting against the reek of mercaptans or other equally foul odors, is not in the proper mood to recognize and appreciate the analogies that exist between chemicals and the people who work for them. The failure to grasp these similarities is a loss to imaginative thinking for the elements and their compounds have characters and personalities so human that they can be fitted into a social or psychological classification with perfect real-ism and much benefit to the student.”
— John Grant (c.1940), “Social Chemistry”

“And so it goes from hydrogen to plutonium—each element has its own peculiar properties that reflect human qualities. Or, is it not we who reflect the personalities of the elements of which we are but the compounds?”
— John Grant (c.1940), “Chemical Sociology”

“I shall refrain from pointing out that every time an element the left [of the periodic table] units with one from the right it is the male who gives and gives his last electron and the female who takes it all.”
— John Grant (c.1940), “Social Chemistry”

See also
Sociology 23
Physicochemical sociology

1. Grant, John F. (c.1940). “Chemical Sociology” (pdf), Quarterly Bulletin of Northwestern University Medical School, 23(4):498-500, Winter, 1949.

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