Books in Scientia – Periodic Tales

This is the first instalment of Books in Scientia; short reviews of books I’ve recently read.  

periodic tales

Title and author

Periodic tales, by Hugh Aldersey-Williams

What’s it about?

It is a personal and historical account of the discovery and practical applications of many of the chemical elements.

What are the good bits?

The most engaging parts of the book are where the author attempts to recreate some of the historical experiments which led to the discovery of new elements. The skill and perseverance of the historical chemists is made startlingly clear through the author’s failures. Because if you’re gonna try and extract phosphorus from collecting several hundred litres of your own wee, you kinda want it to work.

What are the not-so-good bits?

The pictures (there aren’t that many), are poor quality and may as well not have been included.

What does it say on page 181, line 5?

As early as the mid-eighteenth century fireworks were advertised as offering proper rainbow colours.” And who doesn’t love a book that contains fireworks?!

Who should read it?

Anyone with an interest in chemistry, history of the elements or popular science narratives.

How good is it?

I’m giving Periodic Tales 4.5 out of 5 test tubes.

4.5 test tubes



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