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The Periodic Table (Everyman's Library Contemporary Classics Series) Paperback – April 4, 1995
"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? Cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, and instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise. Learn more
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(Book Jacket Status: Jacketed)
The Periodic Table is largely a memoir of the years before and after Primo Leviâs transportation from his native Italy to Auschwitz as an anti-Facist partisan and a Jew.
It recounts, in clear, precise, unfailingly beautiful prose, the story of the Piedmontese Jewish community from which Levi came, of his years as a student and young chemist at the inception of the Second World War, and of his investigations into the nature of the material world. As such, it provides crucial links and backgrounds, both personal and intellectual, in the tremendous project of remembrance that is Leviâs gift to posterity. But far from being a prologue to his experience of the Holocaust, Leviâs masterpiece represents his most impassioned response to the events that engulfed him.
The Periodic Table celebrates the pleasures of love and friendship and the search for meaning, and stands as a monument to those things in us that are capable of resisting and enduring in the face of tyranny.
From the Hardcover edition.
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The use of this device was incredibly creative. In one case, Chapter 2 Hydrogen, the author recounts his teenage adventure with a friend, that generated hydrogen from water. In another chapter, Iron, the author describes his best friend and their mountain adventures. The friend seemed to have the qualities of Iron. Just as the elements have personalities- that is, they share, steal or give up electrons to form bonds with other elements, people also have personalities- resilient, affiliative, inert- and Dr. Levi draws parallels between these chemical and human personalities.
And what stories he has to tell. A romance that might have been. Surviving a death camp by making flints for cigarette lighters. Uncovering a Nazi in a postwar business relationship. 3 amazing chapters which are wholly works of fantasy- not biography at all. The last chapter is a chemical story, the story of one element without a human subtext, the most important element to life on earth.
The book is a tour de force, and a tribute to the fascination of scientific inquiry and experiment.