The decline of the chemistry set

I had a couple of chemistry sets when I was young and also had great fun with them (though as they involved a naked flame my mother always supervised).

English: 1940s Gilbert chemistry set. Photogra...
English: 1940s Gilbert chemistry set. Photographed at Shoreline Historical Museum, Shoreline, Washington. Includes: Top row * * * * (Haematoxylum campechianum) * * * * * * Powdered * Powdered * Second row * * * Powdered * * Bottom row * * solution (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One set allowed me to manufacture a foul-smelling, green-coloured gas – which the guide asserted had been used as a weapon during the Great War.

I bought my eldest daughter a kit a few years ago and it was so boring and lacking in excitement that we both gave up on it after an hour. It was not used a second time.

The BBC report that our experience is not a solitary one and that safety concerns have more or less destroyed the market for kids’ chemistry sets. It’s quite hard to justify selling anyone a set that allows them to manufacture weapons of mass destruction, never mind give it to children. But without the magic, what’s the point?

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