Synopses & Reviews
What is the most common element in the universe? Can you name the noble gases? Everything we see around us is made of chemical elements, but most of us know little about them.
Penned by award-winning science writer John Emsley, Nature's Building Blocks explains the what, why and wherefore of the chemical elements. Arranged alphabetically, from Actinium to Zirconium, it is a complete guide to all 115 of those that are currently known, with more extensive coverage of those elements we encounter in our everyday life. The entry on each element reveals where it came from, what role it may have in the human body, and the foods that contain it. There are also sections on its discovery, its part in human health or illness, the uses and misuses to which it is put, and its environmental role. Readers discover that the Earth consists of around 90 elements, some of which are abundant, such as the silicon and oxygen of rocks and soils, while some are so rare that they make gold seem cheap. Our own bodies contain about 30 elements, some in abundance, some in trace amounts; some vital to our health, and some that are positively harmful. A list of the main scientific data, and outline properties, are given for every element and each section ends with an "Element of Surprise," which highlights some unexpected way in which each element influences our everyday life.
Both a reliable reference source and a high browsable account of the elements, Nature's Building Blocks offers a pleasurable tour of the very essence of our material world.
"An astonishingly comprehensive survey of nature's fundamental ingredients.... By combining juicy anecdotes and fun with a wealth of up-to-date reference material, 'Nature's Building Blocks' hits the spot."--Malcolm Browne, New York Times
"A marvel--encyclopedic in scope, but so full of enthusiasm, so engagingly written, that one can open it at any point and read for sheer delight.... I have read and possess many books on the elements, but it is Dr. Emsley's new book which will now sit next to me on my desk."--Oliver Sacks
"An engaging gadgeteer of the elements."--George Johnson, New York Times
"A delightful, idiosyncratic survey of the known elements, this guide also includes many nuggets of surprising information--for example, the use of fluorine (found in our bones and teeth) in the development of the nonstick frying pan."--Natural History
"John Emsley's colorful account of all the elements in the universe is a succinct history of everything.... Emsley drew on 20 years of collected magazine and newspaper articles to produce this marvelous reference work. 'Nature's Building Blocks' is the kind of book people consult in the pursuit of a single fact, but this fact will lead to another and another, drawing the reader in an enjoyable chase from naturally occurring nuclear reactors to human zinc deficiency and on to the number of elements named for one small town in Sweden (four)."--New York Times Book Review
Aimed at readers with or without a scientific background, this book offers a readable, informative entry on each one of the chemical elements, arranged alphabetically from actinium to zirconium. The entries include details of where the element's name comes from and its role in living things.
About the Author
is Science Writer in Residence at the University of Cambridge. Author of the highly popular "Molecule of the Month" column for The Independent
and of the book Molecules in an Exhibit
, he has received both a Glaxo Award for science writing and the Chemical Industries Association's President's Award for science communication. He lives in London.
Table of Contents
List of elements and numbers
The History of the Periodic Table
Appendix: The discovery of the elements in chronological order