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Acta Chim Slov. 2011 Dec;58(4):876-83.

Why has the bohr-sommerfeld model of the atom been ignoredby general chemistry textbooks?


Bohr's model of the atom is considered to be important by general chemistry textbooks. A major shortcoming of this model was that it could not explain the spectra of atoms containing more than one electron. In order to increase the explanatory power of the model, Sommerfeld hypothesized the existence of elliptical orbits. This study has the following objectives: 1) Formulation of criteria based on a history and philosophy of science framework; and 2) Evaluation of university-level general chemistry textbooks based on the criteria, published in Italy and U.S.A. Presentation of a textbook was considered to be "satisfactory" if it included a description of the Bohr-Sommerfeld model along with diagrams of the elliptical orbits. Of the 28 textbooks published in Italy that were analyzed, only five were classified as "satisfactory". Of the 46 textbooks published in U.S.A., only three were classified as "satisfactory". This study has the following educational implications: a) Sommerfeld's innovation (auxiliary hypothesis) by introducing elliptical orbits, helped to restore the viability of Bohr's model; b) Bohr-Sommerfeld's model went no further than the alkali metals, which led scientists to look for other models; c) This clearly shows that scientific models are tentative in nature; d) Textbook authors and chemistry teachers do not consider the tentative nature of scientific knowledge to be important; e) Inclusion of the Bohr-Sommerfeld model in textbooks can help our students to understand how science progresses.


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