Fifty Minerals that Changed the Course of History


Praise for Fifty Animals that Changed the Course of History:
It's the sort of book that has you saying 'Wow, listen to this...' and 'Did you know...' to companions over and over.
—The Globe and Mail

Fifty Minerals that Changed the Course of History is a beautifully presented guide to the minerals that have had the greatest impact on human civilization. These are the materials used from the Stone Age to the ...

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Praise for Fifty Animals that Changed the Course of History:
It's the sort of book that has you saying 'Wow, listen to this...' and 'Did you know...' to companions over and over.
—The Globe and Mail

Fifty Minerals that Changed the Course of History is a beautifully presented guide to the minerals that have had the greatest impact on human civilization. These are the materials used from the Stone Age to the First and Second Industrial Revolutions to the Nuclear Age and include metals, ores, alloys, salts, rocks, sodium, mercury, steel and uranium. The book also includes minerals used as currency, as jewelry and as lay and religious ornamentation when combined with gem minerals like diamonds, amber, coral, and jade.

Entries are organized by name and considered for their influence in four categories:
Industrial, Cultural, Commercial and Scientific. More than 200 elegant drawings, photographs, paintings and excerpts from literature highlight the concise text.

Examples of the fifty minerals are:

  • Diamonds: Did a necklace ordered by Louis XV precipitate the French Revolution?
  • Sulphur: The biblical brimstone now used in organic farming.
  • Clay: The oldest ceramic object is not a cooking pot or drinking bowl, but a statuette.
  • Arsenic: Was Napoleon murdered while imprisoned on the island of St. Helena?
  • Coal: The Romans invented the first central heating system.
  • Saltpeter: China's fourth "Great Invention" was perhaps not so great after all.
  • Salt: Once used as currency, we give it little thought today.
  • Jade: The Chinese fabric of "pajamas for eternity."

Ubiquitous or rare, the minerals described in Fifty Minerals that Changed the Course of History have been fundamental to human progress, for good or evil. Many are familiar—the aluminum can we drink from, the car we drive, the jewelry we wear. They can be poisons, medicines or weapons, but wherever found and however used, their importance can be easily overlooked. This attractive reference gives us fascinating insight into our undeniable dependence on minerals.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Chaline continues the theme of his recent book, Fifty Animals that Changed the Course of History, in this compilation of anecdotal entries on the use of minerals throughout the world and through time. Obviously influential minerals like coal, gold, petroleum, and uranium are dutifully featured, while chapters covering minerals of apparently lesser import—talc, alabaster, and jade among them—read more like filler to hit the titular 50. Some entries use minerals as little more than impetus for discussions of tangential topics, as when Chaline hops from obsidian to a discourse on Mesoamerican society. Elsewhere, the author makes sweeping statements that require more elucidation if readers are to be convinced of a mineral's role in altering history; a caption in a chapter discussing sulfur, for example, benignly declares that "Sulfuric acid was used by jilted lovers in revenge attacks." The brief sections are consistently interesting, and plenty of supplemental illustrations and photos make this a handsome volume, but the title is mostly hyperbole—chapters should be taken with a grain of NaCl. Chaline's effort is best-suited to curious kids and casual mineralogists. Photos & illus. (July)
Interesting, affordable and readable.... Offers the reader an opportunity to delve further into each mineral's historical significance in an accessible way.
Foreword Reviews
Gives a fascinating perspective on the scope of human development.
Christmas 2012 Gift Book List Globe and Mail
This series...has hit the nail on the head again.
The Columbian (Vancouver, WA) - Jan Johnston
Believe me, once you start mining this book, you'll have no trouble digging out nuggets of fascinating information!
Science Books and Film - Blaise J. Arena
This is a beautiful book, nicely bound and richly illustrated... written in an easy to read, casual style. It may be of interest to middle or high school students, or their teachers who are looking for some historical background on these minerals. It is also suitable for the layperson.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781554079841
  • Publisher: Firefly Books, Limited
  • Publication date: 7/19/2012
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 688,441
  • Product dimensions: 9.00 (w) x 6.80 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Eric Chaline is a journalist and writer. He is the author of Fifty Animals that Changed the Course of History, as well as numerous titles on philosophy and history. He lives in the UK, where he is conducting doctoral research in sociology at South Bank University, London.

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Table of Contents





Further Reading
Image Credits

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