Edward Livingston Youmans was one of the great popularizers of science in the mid-19th century.
While studying agricultural chemistry in 1851, he prepared a chart that utilized colored diagrams to explain the laws of chemical science as then understood, while simultaneously enrolled in a course of medical study at the University of Vermont, from which he received an M.D. in 1852. That same year, he began to give lectures on scientific topics in many towns and cities through the lyceum system, awakening deep interest in scientific subjects among his audience.
He was the first to discuss the doctrines of the conservation of energy and the mutual relation of forces before a popular audience, in his lectures on the “Chemistry of the Sunbeam” and the “Dynamics of Life.” Deeply engaged in the dissemination of scientific knowledge, he also authored textbooks and was the founder, with his brother, of Popular Science magazine.
This atlas, designed “for the use of students … in all schools where chemistry is taught,” was a companion volume to his Class-Book of Chemistry, first published in 1851. Its beautiful illustrations are still highly regarded for their efficacy and modernity.