1. says

    Nine out of ten chemists agree, too. (The tenth’s anosmic).

    He doesn’t count. He died when he didn’t notice the fume hood wasn’t working.

    I wonder how msny chemists, though, have a dulled sense of smell. There may be soem selection effect – at least for organic chemists.

  2. justawriter says

    In Uncle Tungsten Oliver Sacks details his youthful experiments with classes of chemicals he collectively called “stinkogens.”

  3. says

    Oh, please. Chemists are not responsible for the smells – they are only responsible for the identification of the compounds that make the smells. Biological processes produced most of these smells in the first place. Blaming chemists for horrible fragrances is like blaming PZ for his reporting of the fetid aroma of ID.

    If you really want to smell something unique, cut open a specimen of Ascidia ceratodes, a tunicate, and drain the blood. You will never forget that smell. You will also have on your hands, or whereever, a puddle of vanadium enriched cells that are unique in the biological world. They also attract chemists like me…

  4. says

    jb: Vanadium? That’s cool. I had heard that there is some evidence that we make use of extremely small amounts of it, but never that there was any creature that used in large quantities …

    As for responsibility for smells, well, where in nature do you find large amounts of hydrogen telluride? I understand it is absolutely horrible.

    Rick @ shrimp and grits: Even as late as well into the 19th century, chemists sometimes used their own sense of taste to help identify stuff. Since we know that what we take to be the sense of taste relies a lot on the sense of smell, it is probably correct historically to say that smell was somewhat important to chemistry.

  5. jb says

    Keith – these guys concentrate vanadium by a factor of 10^6 (a millionfold) from seawater. It’s still not clear why they do this, but PZ would tell you that it must have an evodevo advantage. My thesis focused on *how* they do this.

    And I knew chemists when I was in college (Berkeley) in the 60’s who not only smelled things, but tasted them. And just last week I watched one of my compatriots smear something onto his finger and then dip it into solvent to see if it was soluble. The compound, not the finger. This is why I got out of organic chemistry……