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Seven Elements that Changed the World: An Adventure of Ingenuity and Discovery Hardcover – March 1, 2014

ISBN-13: 978-1605985404 ISBN-10: 1605985406 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Pegasus; 1 edition (March 1, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1605985406
  • ISBN-13: 978-1605985404
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 0.1 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #568,543 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of chemistry can look at the periodic table of elements and feel confident that the vast majority of listed chemicals, save several latecomers synthesized in physics laboratories, serve vital roles in the world around us. For his debut work of nonfiction, however, former British Petroleum CEO Browne decided to focus only on seven—iron, carbon, gold, silver, uranium, titanium and silicon, convincingly demonstrating how each had its part in shaping human civilization, both for good and for ill. Iron, for instance, was indispensable in building machinery that powered the industrial revolution, but has also made possible the diverse and destructive weapons of war. Carbon, in the form of oil and coal, provides abundant energy but also accelerates global warming. Gold and silver have buttressed international economies while fostering greed and genocide, whereas uranium is essential both in nuclear power plants and in the world’s deadliest bombs. In his first foray into popular-science writing, Browne does an admirable job crafting an informative and engrossing chemistry-based view of history. --Carl Hays

Review

“The human quest for knowledge has led to extraordinary progress. This book forces us to confront these realities and does so in a unique and fascinating way. It weaves science and humanity together in a way that gives us new insight. This is an expertly crafted book by a unique thinker.” (Tony Blair)

“John Browne uses seven elements, the building blocks of the physical world, to explore a multitude of worlds beyond. A lively story that enables us to see the essential elements of modern life in a new and highly engaging way.” (Daniel Yergin, Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Quest)

“Part popular science, part history, part memoir, these pages are infused with insight and lifted by the innate optimism of a scientist.” (Brian Cox, physicist, broadcaster, and author of The Quantum Universe)

Customer Reviews

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Well I certainly went on a learning curve when I read this book.
BLUE FISH
This is a great book written by a very unique and interesting man: Author John Browne.
BookVodney
Climate change and the politics of climate change are well covered.
Paul Eckler

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By BookVodney on March 1, 2014
Format: Hardcover
This is a great book written by a very unique and interesting man: Author John Browne. Browne was the CEO for British Petroleum during the turn off this century, and moved the company into a direction of growth and public accountability until his abrupt departure in 2007. I believe his book has changed my outlook on a few things that I take for granted and paid little thought to - like the origin of understanding for carbon. He starts in 16th century Venice and explains how an atom considered black dust was an important source for fossil fuels, gunpowder, and the beginning of modern energy. He covers Silver and explains the role it played in the early Spanish domination of the 16th century world. Also, he covers the role of other elements such as iron, gold, uranium, titanium, and silicon as it relates to history and their ever present need for today.

Mr. Browne will take you behind the scenes of the global oil industry, and give you a very unique perspective with regard to trade and limits on its expansion due to politics and mistrust among nations. I enjoyed this book and would recommend it to those interested in history, science, business, and politics.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Athan on May 16, 2014
Format: Hardcover
First things first: the author is a proper legend. Under his watch BP scooped up Amoco when oil was trading somewhere in the gutter and the Economist magazine was predicting cheap oil forever. It was a time when you had decide if you'd double up or cash out and he deserves a lot of the credit for BP doubling up at the lows. Also under his watch, BP managed the feat of being the only western oil company to take money out of Russia. Proper money, Like, they put in some 8 billion to buy half of TNK, took out something like 15 billion in dividends and cashed out for a similar amount. Also, he's the man who brought us "Beyond Petroleum."

But of course he will mainly be remembered for the scandal that brought him down, and from my angle it appears that writing books is basically what he's now doing to keep himself busy. But it's not exactly a passion. It never feels like he really had to write this book.

John Browne comes across like he's only ever had one passion: for business and for BP in particular. He was born into BP, he travelled the world as a youngster following his dad's various postings and after a brief interlude for college ended back at BP. At BP he drilled for oil, before moving on to running the show. When he got to the top he got to know about the rest of the world via his various board memberships and acquired the wealth that allowed him to indulge in his various hobbies (as opposed to passions)

The "Seven Elements that Have Changed the World" basically amounts to a list of the various things he found out by being such a successful and important person within such an important and powerful organisation. It could have been called "a bunch of interesting stuff I could not help finding out while I was running BP." Also, it's quite autobiographical.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Rikki White on April 5, 2014
Format: Hardcover
REVIEW OF SEVEN ELEMENTS THAT HAVE CHANGED THE WORLD
Ever since I first came across the periodic table, I have been fascinated by the various elements that have evolved in our universe, into the wonderful array that make our technical world possible. Their interactions with each other and the fact that human beings have developed the intelligence to use these elements in ways that seemed unimaginable only a short time ago are truly miraculous.
John Browne has taken seven of these items and produced a history of how they were developed, how their properties were used. If you have electricity, gas, a mobile phone, a computer, an iPad, and the myriad other gadgets available, you will enjoy this extraordinary story of how they came about.
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Format: Hardcover
“Seven Elements that Changed the World: An Adventure of Ingenuity and Discovery,” by John Browne, Pegasus Books, NY, 2014. This 279-page hardback tells the story of materials science, i.e., chemistry, and the impact of related technologies. The author focuses on seven elements: iron, carbon, gold, silver, uranium, titanium, and silicon. He retells some well known stories, but he extends coverage to include India and China. Parts relate memoirs from his career as an executive at British Petroleum. He avoids excessive minutia. This is an overview. Still he provides extensive notes and bibliography for those who want to know more.

The iron chapter begins with the battle of the iron clads in the Civil War, the importance of iron to the industrial revolution, as an underlying factor in the battles for the Alsace-Loraine in Europe, the Krupp family, structural steel in skyscrapers, and in the US the well known story of Carnegie Steel and US Steel. He includes the development of the Bessemer Converter, that made steel-making practical. He relates the story of the Iron Lion, showing that iron was known in China as early as 800 A.D. Finally we learn the story of Tata Steel in India, which made its first steel in 1912.

The carbon chapter begins with gunpowder which gets is blackness from powdered charcoal. The story is extended to coal and oil. (Browne could have told the story of plastics, but that part is omitted.) His expertise in the oil industry is apparent. He provides details of modern fracking, Hubbert's peak oil theory, and oil disasters including the Exxon Valdez and platform fires such as Piper Alpha. The story of John D. Rockefeller and Standard Oil is told in brief. He covers the recent history of oil including the oil embargo and oil politics.
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