Friday, April 3, 2015

The IUPAC color books: terminology, nomenclature and ontology in chemistry, biochemistry and materials science

Here is a brief overview—hyperlinks included—of those color books by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) that have accessible online versions [1-3]:

The interactive Gold Book at, and the PDF version Compendium of Chemical Terminology at It is not named for the color or chemical element gold, but to honor the chemist Victor Gold (1922-1985), who initiated its first edition [4,5].

The Green Book: Quantities, Units and Symbols in Physical Chemistry []

The Blue Book: Nomenclature of Organic Chemistry by Advanced Chemistry Development (ACD) []

The Purple Book: Compendium of Polymer Terminology and Nomenclature []

The Orange Book: Compendium of Analytical Nomenclature (website by David S. Moore) []

The Red Book: Nomenclature of Inorganic Chemistry []

The “White Book”: Biochemical Nomenclature and Related Documents []

The Silver Book: Clinical Chemistry is currently under revision (future status of Web availability unknown) [[project_nr]=2007-033-3-700]

Organizationally, the color code gold (in memory of Victor Gold) stands for the combined glossary. As you may have realized by reading the compendium titles, the other colors refer to sub-disciplines or branches of chemistry: green for physical, blue for organic, purple for macromolecular, orange for analytical, red for inorganic, “white” for “biochemical” and silver for clinical [6].

Mark Borkum and Jeremy Frey argue the case for Web-based, machine-accessible representations of these and other IUPAC publications to make them available for reuse by software developers [1]. Further, they urge IUPAC to take immediate measures in promoting a “cohesive vision of chemical terminology, nomenclature and ontology on the Web” by acknowledging and visionarily involving interdisciplinary chemists and software engineers:

There are many fine examples of “chemist-ware” on the Web, but their developers represent an absolutely tiny fraction of the world's chemists, who are presently unable to fully express themselves.
[Mark Borkum and Jeremy Frey, 2015]

Keyterms: cheminformatics, polymer informatics, computer science, e-science infrastructurestandardization, chemical compendia, online resources, open software architectureopen-source mantra.

[1] Mark I. Borkum and Jeremy G. Frey: What's in a Name? Quite a Lot, as it Happens! Chemistry International March-April 2015, pp. 7-9 [].
[2] IUPAC: Nomenclature and Terminology (including IUPAC color books) [].
[3] Wikipedia: IUPAC book [].
[4] W. J. Albery: Victor Gold, 29 June 1922 - 29 September 1985. Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society December 1987, 33, 263 ff. DOI:
[5] Hawaii Book Library: Victor Gold (Chemist) [].
[6] International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry: Nomenclature Books [].