- Paperback: 352 pages
- Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks; Reprint edition (February 10, 2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0375759816
- ISBN-13: 978-0375759819
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 113 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #123,745 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Emperor of Scent: A True Story of Perfume and Obsession Paperback – February 10, 2004
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"A brilliant, feisty scientist at the center of a nasty, back-stabbing, utterly absorbing, cliff-hanging scramble for the Nobel Prize. The Emperor of Scent is a quirky, wonderful book."
-John Berendt, author of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
"Professional perfume critic, obsessive collector of rare fragrances, academic-bad-boy biochemist and world-class eccentric, Luca Turin would be the worthy subject of a book even if he hadn't come up with a revolutionary scientific theory. Written with skill and verve, The Emperor of Scent is an engrossing intellectual detective story about one iconoclast's quest to solve a centuries-old mystery--how smell works."
-Miles Harvey, author of The Island of Lost Maps
"The Emperor of Scent is a gem of a book--a suspense story at whose heart is a man of super-human powers who is also flawed and justifiably arrogant and dangerously steeped in hubris. I challenge any intelligent, curious mind not to tumble into this story and find themselves immediately engrossed. I fell in love with Luca Turin--he is everything I admire in a human: irreverent, witty, imaginative, determined, elitist without a trace of snobbery and above all a creative genius. And Chandler Burr is a magician himself, and a man we should all be so lucky to have at a dinner party: I was mesmerized and enlightened by the many perfect asides woven into the main body of this incredible true tale."
-Alexandra Fuller, author of Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight
“What happens when Luca Turin, a likable scientist who happens to possess an unusually sensitive nose, proposes a new theory of smell that promises to unravel the mystery [of scent] once and for all? That’s what readers find out in this often funny, picaresque exposé of the closed world of whiffs, aromas and odors—and the people who study them.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Exhibiting more grace than a magician in tails, Chandler Burr brings science and the people who practice it to life in The Emperor of Scent. . . . Burr does a remarkable job of explaining both Turin, the man behind the idea, and his science.”
—The Denver Post
“Chandler Burr . . . has transformed a chance meeting with a curious biophysicist named Luca Turin into an amusing and poetic adventure in science and art.”
—The Washington Post
From the Inside Flap
The Emperor of Scent tells of the scientific maverick Luca Turin, a connoisseur and something of an aesthete who wrote a bestselling perfume guide and bandied about an outrageous new theory on the human sense of smell. Drawing on cutting-edge work in biology, chemistry, and physics, Turin used his obsession with perfume and his eerie gift for smell to turn the cloistered worlds of the smell business and science upside down, leading to a solution to the last great mystery of the senses: how the nose works.
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Turin develops the quantum mechanical calculational methods to determine the vibrations of the molecules. At the end of the day, the man has a lot of evidence that his peers dont understand (you need to be world class in biology, chemistry, and physics), dont believe (they say smell is subjective) or dont want to hear because it threatens their life's work.
Turin is in the unfortunate position of being unable to convince his peers that vibration is the ticket to smell. Even the venerable Nature magazine hung him out to dry for more than a year as it dealt with referees who ultimately were non-believers. The public and his students loved Turin's BBC specials but it held no weight with the academics. In this regard Turin is his own worst enemy, since his experimental methods are as unpredictable and tempermental as the man himself. As a chemical engineer, while I could understand some of where Turin is going with this theory, I can see how many could be unconvinced. Self-promotion, arrogance, confrontation, sharp language, lack of patience, and lust for riches and Nobel prizes do not help the man's case.
It is only possible to admire Turin, as see that he followed the path of his greatest interests, for years trading professional and commercial success for the chance to pursue an eclectic grab-bag of subjects. Perhaps he is the only man on earth who is sufficiently knowlegeable in biology, fragrances, molecular and electo-chemistry, and quantum mechanisms to understand how smell works. His argument that the fragrance houses develop new molecules by hand rather than through predictive methods is a kick to the ground for the rival shapists.
Chandler Burr is a phenomenal writer, later the NY Times smell critic and a lonely museum curator. He has also written about the launch of new fragrances and the working of that industry. In the Emperor of Scent, Burr tells a terrific story, capturing the passion of Turin and the resistance of his peers. Burr tries like hell to explain the technology and fails at times. I am certain his editor like Stephen Hawkings told him to avoid any equations or non-child like charts that would have better explained these concepts, in the interests of actually selling the book. Burr tends towards long-winded narratives, excessive use of dialogue, and more description than analysis but has still put together a classic book.
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