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Whatever Happened to the Chemistry Set?

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For generations, a chemistry set was a childhood rite of passage, combining the promise of scientific discovery with the disappointment of soggy litmus paper. Dr Kat Arney charts
the humble chemistry set’s atomic age heyday, through to its fall from grace in recent decades.

Though many of the commentators confess to such sets stimulating their interest in science at a young age, they point out that the wane of chemistry sets does not reflect a science in decline. From gleeful tales of do-it-yourself explosives to its charming low-tech radiophonic music score, this is an offbeat nostalgia trip for everyone’s inner geek.


Kat Arney charts the rise and fall in popularity of the chemistry set, interviewing scientists about how the kits inspired children in previous generations, some of whom went on to become Nobel prize winners. She tries to find out why the kits are out of favour, even though academics argue that young people now are ill equipped for work in higher education and industry owing to a lack of hands-on experience.

Cast & Crew

Presenter Kat Arney
Producer Julian Mayers


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