Synopses & Reviews
In Mendeleyev's Dream, Paul Strathern unfurls the history of chemistry, from the Greek philosophers to the Age of Enlightenment's gentlemenscientists. Bookending his tale is Dmitri Mendeleyev, a 19th-century scientist who awoke one day having dreamt the Periodic Table of Elements, the key to unlocking chemistry's treasures. In the meantime, Strathern introduces us to the Russian's predecessors, from Paracelsus, who presented a pan of cow manure as "the greatest secret in medical science," to Francis Bacon, who died after running out into the snow to prove the benefits of refrigeration on a plucked chicken. Through these mad, brilliant men, Strathern weaves a fascinating, intoxicating work of science writing that moves the spirit as it exhilarates the mind.
What is the world made of? The ancient Greeks speculated about earth, air, fire, and water; today we turn to the periodic table for more reliable information. The story of how we got from there to here is full of fascinating people, and in this elegant, entertaining book, Paul Strathern introduces us to ancient philosophers, medieval alchemists, and the earliest chemists-and to Dimitri Mendeleyev, the card-playing nineteenth-century Russian who claimed that the answers came to him in a dream.
"Chemistry has been a neglected area of science writing, and Mendeleyev, the king of chemistry, is a largely forgotten genius. [This book] goes a long way toward correcting this injustice." (Simon Singh, author of Fermat's Last Theorem, in the Sunday Telegraph)
About the Author
Paul Strathern was born in London in 1940 and studied physics, chemistry and math at Trinity College, Dublin, before switching to philosophy. He has authored several novels and nonfiction books and lectures in philosophy and science at Kingston University.