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In his well researched and engaging narrative, Eric Scerri presents the intriguing stories of these seven elements--protactinium, hafnium, rhenium, technetium, francium, astatine ...
In his well researched and engaging narrative, Eric Scerri presents the intriguing stories of these seven elements--protactinium, hafnium, rhenium, technetium, francium, astatine and promethium. The book follows the historical order of discovery, roughly spanning the two world wars, beginning with the isolation of protactinium in 1917 and ending with that of promethium in 1945. For each element, Scerri traces the research that preceded the discovery, the pivotal experiments, the personalities of the chemists involved, the chemical nature of the new element, and its applications in science and technology. We learn for instance that alloys of hafnium--whose name derives from the Latin name for Copenhagen (hafnia)--have some of the highest boiling points on record and are used for the nozzles in rocket thrusters such as the Apollo Lunar Modules. Scerri also tells the personal tales of researchers overcoming great obstacles. We see how Lise Meitner and Otto Hahn--the pair who later proposed the theory of atomic fission--were struggling to isolate element 91 when World War I intervened, Hahn was drafted into the German army's poison gas unit, and Meitner was forced to press on alone against daunting odds. The book concludes by examining how and where the twenty-five new elements have taken their places in the periodic table in the last half century.
A Tale of Seven Elements paints a fascinating picture of chemical research--the wrong turns, missed opportunities, bitterly disputed claims, serendipitous findings, accusations of dishonesty--all leading finally to the thrill of discovery.
One of New Scientist's Best Books of 2013
"[This is a brilliant book about the interface of chemistry and physics. Above all, the stories argue powerfully for curiosity-driven research, and show how hard it is to see the wood for the trees in the thick of a scientific battle. They are powerful reminders, too, that the scientific method always allows the truth to shine through, you just have to be patient." --New Scientist
"Scerri's Tale gives an absorbing account of scientific process in the early 20th century, when nationalism drove chemists and physicists to seek the glory that would result from discovering a new element." -- Science News
"[A]n excellent read, and it is warmly recommended to all students and practitioners of chemistry and related fields, and to all those who are interested in the history and the culture of science." --Structural Chemistry
"...these are fascinating stories." -- Chemical & Engineering News
"Highly recommended for all curious science readers and historians of science" -- Library Journal
"Scerri details the fascinating backstories of the discoverers and discoveries of the last seven chemical elements in this engaging scientific history." -- Publishers Weekly
"Scerri's vivid storytelling, and the letters and journals he quotes, allow us to see chemistry, and science generally, as an essentially historical enterprise-a human adventure that shows the best, and sometimes the worst, of human nature." -- from the preface by Oliver Sacks
"Few areas of chemistry have inspired such a competitive spirit and bruised so many egos as the discovery of new elements. Chemists will enjoy reading Scerri's illuminating and detailed account of the personal, political, and scientific tensions behind the true discoveries and the vanishing of many false identifications." -- Peter Atkins
"Reading this book is like going away on holiday to an obscure little place you'd never normally think of visiting, and finding it packed with local interest and charm. Who would have thought that this odd collection of little-known elements would have so many stories to tell, so many characters and intrigues and eccentricities? For anyone curious about chemistry, it's a trip I can warmly recommend." -- Philip Ball, author of Elements, A Very Short Introduction and Molecules, A Very Short Introduction.
"If you wish to deepen your understanding of the nature of the elements, and the nature of the men and women who made it their business to discover them, you can't go wrong with this delightful volume from the preeminent authority on the history and philosophy of the periodic table." -- Theodore Gray, Popular Science columnist and author of The Elements, Mad Science, and Mad Science 2
"Attractive, Promising Reassessment Frames Particularly Helpful Teaching.
In short, an intriguing and worthwhile book!" -- Martyn Poliakoff FRS, The University of Nottingham and a presenter of the YouTube channel www.periodicvideos.com
"This is a story of exploration at the boundaries of chemistry, as scientists searched for the missing elements which they knew must exist but had yet to be been found. Where were they hiding? What guided them in their search? And who finally found them? Scerri explains not only the science of their discoveries, but also tells equally intriguing stories of the people themselves. This remarkable and well-researched book is truly a goldmine of information." -- John Emsley, author of Nature's Building Blocks
"Some of the best stories out involve elements you never talk about in chemistry classes. A Tale of Seven Elements picks out some of the best of those stories, and shows their deep relevance for understanding how modern science works." -- Sam Kean, author of The Disappearing Spoon and The Violinist's Thumb
"Each of Scerri's stories is a gem. Would not it be wonderful to learn school chemistry through such narratives? ...an excellent read, and it is warmly recommended to all students and practitioners of chemistry and related fields, and to all those who are interested in the history and the culture of science." -- Structural Chemistry
"Mr. Scerri's outstanding book helps us understand the special spirit of chemistry, whose contribution to science and human experience emphasizes the crucible of experiment." --Wall Street Journal
"This book is both scholarly and accessible. Scerri draws on diverse fields to paint a thorough and nuanced picture of the history of the periodic table and the discovery of elements in the twentieth century...Like the best of Stephen Jay Gould's popular writing, the subject matter is explained clearly and lucidly without scrimping on the detail...it ought to dispel any simple idealism about chemistry and, hopefully, replace it with a strong sense of context and innumerable questions." -- Nature Chemistry
"Eric Scerri is the wizard of the periodic table. He knows more about the chemistry student's bane, and about elements and their history, than pretty well anyone else, full stop. His book The Periodic Table is the ultimate history of the development of this distinctive layout of the elements showing their relationships." -- Popular Science
"The book would be a good read for any chemist." -- Chemistry and Industry
"...readers will enjoy the letters of sparring chemists in pursuit of credit as they insult and attempt to disprove each other's work." -- Jacob Roberts, Chemical Heritage Magazine
"...this is one of those books not easy to put down once started - and you can't say that about many other contemporary books dealing with the history of our subject. Moreover, it's just been announced that this book has made it into the top 12 science books of 2013, as judged by the magazine New Scientist." -- Alan Dronsfield, Historical Group of Royal Society of Chemistry, UK
"A worthy topic, and timely." -- Chemistry World
"If you'd like to know about the stories and scientists of chemistry's greatest search, and see some acerbic correspondence along the way, then this is the book for you." -- Daniel Johnson, Chemistry World
"[R]eaders will enjoy the letters of sparring chemists in pursuit of credit as they insult and attempt to disprove each other's work."
"A Tale of 7 Elements is addressed to everyone interested in the history of chemistry. ... It is enjoyable to read the book." --Angewandte Books
"A Tale of 7 Elements is an excellent narrative and the value of narratives in science and science education is highly stressed. I highly recommend this book to students and their teachers, scientists, and the interested public. --Journal of Chemical Education
Featured in the German matallurgy journal, Metall.
Preface: What constitutes the discovery of an element?
Dalton, to the Discovery of the Periodic System
van den Broek, Moseley and the missing seven elements.
Element 91, protactinium
Element 72, hafnium
Element 75, rhenium
Element 43, technetium
Element 87, francium
Element 85, astatine
Element 61, promethium
Posted June 17, 2013
A first rate book by an expert on the science and history of the periodic table. This his latest of three books with Oxford University Press is directed at a wider audience and presents some intriguing scientific stories that one does not find in the usual sources and textbooks.
Scerri's style is clear and informative. Chemistry and physics instructors at every level will draw inspiration from this book. Students of science and lay-readers will gain a better understanding of how science is actually carried out, complete with disputes and warring egos. Highly recommended. Great value for money too.