Accession No


Brief Description

chemistry ball-and-stick molecular model kit (set B), by Molecular Models, USA, mid 20th century


Columbus; Ohio; USA


Molecular Models


chemistry; demonstration

Earliest Date

Jan. 1, 1930

Latest Date

Dec. 31, 1970

Inscription Date


wood; metal; paper (cardboard); paint


length 264mm; width 199mm; depth 32mm (box)

Special Collection


Purchased from Blue Bird Online Retailer, Saint Charles, Illinois, U.S.A. (purchase via eBay), on or before 09/01/2006.



Box 3003, University Station
Columbus, Ohio’ [front of lid, bottom right]

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS’ [front of lid, bottom left]

‘Dierking, Warren
Locker 803
Room 256
Men’s New Hall’ [owner’s inscription in ink on lid]

Description Notes

Set of wooden chemistry ball-and-stick molecular models (set B), by Molecular Models, USA, mid 20th century.

This model kit is used to represent the structure of organic molecules.

Set contains painted wooden balls, representing atoms, each with a number of holes drilled into them. Each colour represents a different element, with the number of holes indicating the atom’s valency (the number of bonds it can make with other atoms).

This model kit does not follow the standard convention for the colours of atoms:

element colour number of balls

carbon black 10
hydrogen yellow 28
oxygen red 6
chlorine? green 4
5-valent atom (unknown) light blue 2
univalent atom (halogen?) purple 2
univalent atom (halogen?) orange 2

The atoms are connected together with two lengths of wooden pegs and metal springs. These represent the bonds between the atoms. The metal springs enable the bond angles to be more flexible -- they are used for creating double bonds or strained structures.

Set is contained in original cardboard box, which has an image of ethane on the lid, with three compartments for the pieces (one for black and blue atoms, one for the wooden and metal pegs, and one for all other atoms).

Condition good; cardboard box is worn and has tears to the corners, with the remains of sticky tape in places.


Ruth Horry; 'Ball and spoke models'; Explore Whipple Collections online article; Whipple Museum of the History of Science; University of Cambridge; 2006:


There are several main types of atomic models in use today. Two of the most common are 'ball and spoke' and 'space-filling' types. Each model type displays different information about molecules. Whilst ball and spoke models are designed to show how the atoms bond together, space-filling models accurately demonstrate the size and shape of the molecule. This model kit uses the ‘ball and spoke’ type of modelling to represent the structure of organic molecules. Different types of atoms or elements are represented as coloured wooden balls. For instance, a hydrogen atom is yellow, carbon is black and oxygen is red. The number of holes in the wooden ball indicates the atom’s valency (the number of bonds it can make with other atoms). Models are essential to teaching and research in chemistry. They are useful tools for visualising the structures and shapes of groups of atoms, which is important in understanding molecular behaviour. The chemist Wilhelm August Hofmann (1818–1892) first used coloured balls to represent the elements around 1865. John Dalton (1766–1844), who significantly shaped nineteenth-century concepts of atom structure, used ball and spoke models in his lectures.
Created by: Allison Ksiazkiewicz on 10/03/2013


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