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The Elements: A Very Short Introduction

Philip Ball

08 April 2004

ISBN: 9780192840998

192 pages

In Stock

Very Short Introductions

Price: £8.99



This Very Short Introduction traces the history and cultural impact of the elements on humankind, and examines why people have long sought to identify the substances around them. Looking beyond the Periodic Table, the author takes the reader on an engaging and entertaining tour: from the Greek philosophers who propounded a system with four elements - earth, air, fire, and water - to the modern-day scientists who are able to create their own.

  • 'A delight of a book.... Elegantly written...it's far-reaching, entertaining and salted with anecdote.... It could become a classic. Hold on to your first edition.' Roy Herbert, New Scientist.
  • An engaging chronology of the elements, from the Greek philosophers who thought the world was made only from earth, air, fire, and water, to the work of twentieth-century radiochemistry in extending the Periodic Table.
  • An exciting and non-traditional approach to understanding the terminology, properties, and classification of chemical elements.
  • Includes chapters on particular elements (gold, iron, oxygen, etc), showing how they shaped culture and technology.
  • Philip Ball is a high-profile science writer, who writes science extremely well for non-scientists.

About the Author(s)

Philip Ball, Freelance science writer and Consultant Editor of Nature

Table of Contents

    1:Aristotle's Quartet: The elements in antiquity
    2:Revolution: How oxygen changed the world
    3:Gold: The most desirable element
    4:The Eightfold Path: Organizing the elements
    5:The Atom Factories: Making new elements
    6:The Chemical Brothers: Why isotopes are useful
    7:For All Practical Purposes: Technologies of the elements
    End notes
    Futher reading


Ball is one of the most prolific and imaginative of contemporary science writers. He has plenty of attitude, boasts a fine knowledge of visual art and a literary sensibility, and his science is encyclopaedic. - Chemistry in Britain

A delight of a book.... Elegantly written...it's far-reaching, entertaining and salted with anecdote.... It could become a classic. Hold on to your first edition - Roy Herbert, New Scientist

engaging tour of the chemical elements - Sunday Telegraph

Philip Ball's book is an excellent introduction. I would have loved the book as an enthusiastic sixteen year-old and I would recommend it as a Christmas present to anyone at that age, and to journalists who may occasionally wish to appear smarter than they actually are. - Simon Robinson, Chemistry and Industry

a series of invigorating dips - Guardian

Ball's choices are sound, his style is attractive - Evening Standard

Ball brings the periodic table to life - Maia Weinstock, Discover

A beautifully written and elegantly illustrated synthesis of chemistry and culture. Popularization of science at its very best. - Sir John Meurig Thomas, University of Cambridge

The book contains some delightful anecdotes - David Johnson, Times Higher Educational Supplement

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