Written by the author of The Elements (3d ed., Oxford, 1999), a data book on chemical elements created for scientists, this work is aimed at a general audience. All of the elements are covered, from actinium to zirconium to an element thought to exist but not yet synthesized (element 119). The alphabetically arranged entries range in length from two (Actinium) to nine pages (Hydrogen). Elements of atomic number 101 and above are discussed in a single entry for the transfermium elements.
Following brief information on the element's name and pronunciation, each entry is arranged into several sections addressing specific uses or roles. For example, "Food Element" treats the importance of the element in the human diet, and "Element of History" deals with the element's discovery. Also covered are medical, economic, environmental, and chemical aspects. There is even an "Element of Surprise," which highlights some interesting facts. Here and in occasional sidebars we learn that Mozart may have been accidentally poisoned by antimony, cobalt was once used to make invisible ink, silver can be used to sterilize water, mercury was once used to treat syphilis, and Napoleon may have been poisoned by arsenic from the wallpaper at his home on St. Helena.
There are many sources of accurate information on the chemical elements. A distinguishing feature of this work is the inclusion of unusual facts that should appeal to the general reader with little science background. It is recommended for special, public, and academic libraries. RBB
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"Review from previous edition: Emsley's design, layout and presentation is logical, clear and beautifully written. The introduction itself is both informative and full of unexpected, yet valuable information . . . I would recommend the work particularly as an essential bookshelf companion for all teachers of chemistry and as a project resource for students of all levels." --Chemistry in Britain March 2002
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". . . [an] astonishingly comprehensive survey of nature's fundamental ingredients . . ." --New York Times 02/04/2002
"A readable and entertaining guide . . . Doubles as both an accessible reference source and an enjoyable and fascinating 'dip into' read." --Materials World 01/12/02
"What for many might be a dry and dusty collection of facts has been turned into an amusing and finely crafted set of mini-biographies. . . . This is a fine, amusing and quirky book that will sit as comfortably on an academic's bookshelf as beside the loo . . ." --Nature, 01/11/01
". . . fascinating book . . . deeply useful for both teachers and students of chemistry, at almost any level . . ." --New Scientist, 11/08/01
"This book is like a bar of Cadbury's chocolate: You can't eat just one square. Having said this, I think this is a wonderful book for scientists of all persuasions". --Andrew R. Barron, C and EN