Napoleon's Buttons [NOOK Book]

Overview

Napoleon's Buttons is the fascinating account of seventeen groups of molecules that have greatly influenced the course of history. These molecules provided the impetus for early exploration, and made possible the voyages of discovery that ensued. The molecules resulted in grand feats of engineering and spurred advances in medicine and law; they determined what we now eat, drink, and wear. A change as small as the position of an atom can lead to enormous alterations in the properties of a substance-which, in turn,...
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Napoleon's Buttons

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Overview

Napoleon's Buttons is the fascinating account of seventeen groups of molecules that have greatly influenced the course of history. These molecules provided the impetus for early exploration, and made possible the voyages of discovery that ensued. The molecules resulted in grand feats of engineering and spurred advances in medicine and law; they determined what we now eat, drink, and wear. A change as small as the position of an atom can lead to enormous alterations in the properties of a substance-which, in turn, can result in great historical shifts.

With lively prose and an eye for colorful and unusual details, Le Couteur and Burreson offer a novel way to understand the shaping of civilization and the workings of our contemporary world.


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What People Are Saying

From the Publisher
"Well-conceived,well-done popular science."
—Booklist

"The authors unearth a wealth of anecdotes from all parts of the world and use them effectively to illustrate the technological underpinnings of modern society. Thoughtful, often surprising, smoothly written."
—Kirkus Reviews

"Entertaining accounts of how various objects' chemical properties might have changed history."
—Library Journal
"What does the fiery compound C17H19O3N have to do with the discovery of North America? Plenty, according to this remarkable collection of scientific sleuthings. The book's cases — especially the chapter blaming Napoleon's disastrous Russian campaign on the eponymous tin fasteners that failed to hold French uniforms together — unfold like CSI meets the History Channel. A splendid example of better reading through chemistry.  B+"
—Entertainment Weekly

"This book is both original and fascinating; I was quickly absorbed by this refreshing mix of science and history; I learned a lot of both and read this book quite quickly for a science book."

—The Literary Flaneur

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781440650321
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 5/24/2004
  • Sold by: Penguin Group
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 68,021
  • File size: 3 MB

Meet the Author

Jay Burreson, Ph.D., has worked as an industrial chemist and held a National Institutes of Health special fellowship for research on chemical compounds in marine life. He is also the general manager of a high-tech company.


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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 16 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(8)

4 Star

(5)

3 Star

(1)

2 Star

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1 Star

(2)

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 18 of 16 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 8, 2004

    Better Living Through Chemistry

    Did tin buttons that crumbled in the cold stop Napoleon's army? Or was it scurvy from lack of vitamin-C? Or lack of antibiotics for the wounded? Throughout history, there have been substances that have changed the world. The authors have chosen 17 types of molecules that have altered the course of nations, societies and cultures. Each chapter centers on one of the molecules, and it's very interesting that many of the molecules are interconnected. The authors take us on a fascinating journey through history and chemistry - starting with piperine, the stuff that puts the 'hot' in peppers and ending with the molecules that have conquered malaria. Both natural and synthetic substances are studied. The impact of natural substances like salt, caffeine, and olive oil reaches far past daily life and into the fate of nations. The search for synthetic substitutes has led to diverse products such as nylon, artificial sweeteners, the Pill, and Styrofoam. The impacts of several live-saving substances like vitamin-C and antibiotics are explored. Some compounds, such as DDT and Freon, that were originally seen as near-miracles have proven to be rather disastrous to the environment. Napoleon's Buttons explores the consequences for better and for worse, sometimes all in the same substance. The book starts with a very friendly overview of chemistry diagrams and terms. The authors provide a multitude of diagrams that show how various substances are similar and different. It's truly amazing how a tiny change in structure can completely alter the properties of a molecule. I think the diagrams are fascinating, but if you're not that interested in the actual chemistry, you can easily ignore them and concentrate on the stories that illustrate the effect of each substance. Le Couteur and Burreson entertain as well as educate with their well-chosen selection of anecdotes. Their writing is very understandable for the casual reader, but includes enough detail to satisfy someone with a stronger background in science. I don't usually comment on the look of the text, but I thought it was just outstanding in this book. Both the text and the diagrams are exceptionally clean and easy to read. The information is very well organized - it's easy to read each chapter as a self contained unit, but there's enough of a framework tying it all together to make it a coherent whole.

    7 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 2, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    As good as a button

    This book was bought as a part of a research project for my organic chemistry class, however, I found it to be relevant in everyday life. It is easy to read and gives a good historical background of each of the molecule discussed. It is appropriate for any reading level and those without an interest in chemistry will still find it an enjoyable read. Highly recommended.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 28, 2008

    Delightful

    A delightful tour of possible chemical influences on historical events. Although the authors admit that some of these influences are improbable, the humorous tone and spritely accounts make for a good read anyway.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 17, 2006

    ZOMFD

    Alright so I'm not really a 'let's read something educational' kind of person.... I usually stick to the fiction and I hated my chemistry class but this past year my physics teacher told us all to read this book at the beginning of the year and I didn't listen then one day he had it out on the desk while we were in class and I started reading it and went right through our double period. I borrowed the book and couldn't put it down it was just so interesting all the things I had no idea about from seemingly far fetched leaps from one subject to another to little things such as how spices are able to effect us. The book was also written in a not confusing manner so I could understand everything I was reading about. The book was awesome and gave me a definate new outlook on chemistry.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 16, 2014

    Wish I'd read this one before my first organic chem semester

    This book walks through our history of synthesizing our chemical needs from rubber for tires to birth control pills and beyond. Though the focus is organic chemistry, it's never too complicated to follow the flow. Many anecdotal stories keep me interested.

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