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Molecules of Murder: Criminal Molecules and Classic Murders Hardcover – 1 Aug 2008

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 276 pages
  • Publisher: Royal Society of Chemistry; 1 edition (1 Aug. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0854049657
  • ISBN-13: 978-0854049653
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.1 x 22.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 201,295 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

Personal details first: I'm married to Joan and we have two married children and four grandchildren. I now live in Ampthill in Bedfordshire to which we moved after living in London for 35 years. (Joan was deputy head teacher in Hampstead Garden Suburb School.) I am a writer, contributing articles to magazines as well as writing books. I also have a website johnemsley.com where I've deposited a lot of my articles including some fun ones that were published in newsletters.
Career details: I was a student in Manchester and did a PhD there in the 1960s. I was a lecturer in chemistry at King's College London for 24 years and produced more than 100 original research papers.
I became a full-time science writer in 1990, and was Imperial College's Science Writer in Residence from 1990-97, during which time I wrote a column for The Independent newspaper called Molecule of the Month.
From 1997-2002 I held a similar position in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Cambridge when I produced its newsletter Chem@Cam.
I began writing popular science books while at Imperial College and the first of these was The Consumer's Good Chemical Guide which won the Science Book Prize of 1995. Then followed Molecules at an Exhibition, Nature's Building Blocks (now in its second edition), The Shocking History of Phosphorus, Vanity, Vitality & Virility, The Elements of Murder, Better Looking, Better Living, Better Loving, Molecules of Murder, and A Healthy, Wealthy, Sustainable World.
My latest book is a short novel, Islington Green, which is based on the themes of A Healthy, Wealthy, Sustainable World, and I did this in the hope that it might reach a wider audience. It's available as an e-book and priced £1.99.
My popoular science books have been translated in most other languages, including Korean and Thai, and in 2003 I won the German Chemical Society Writer's Prize. Over the years, I've taken part in radio programmes and acted as an advisor for TV programmes which involved chemistry. One of my more interesting consultancies was to assess the claims being made in television adverts where these involved household chemicals, a job I did for 12 years.

Product Description


"This book is clearly written and much easier to digest than the compounds it describes."Emsley has written a book that satisfies the true-crime reader as well as the science-orientated specialist."I'm sure Gil Grisson, former head of the forensic investigation team in the TV Show "CSI" would have a copy on his shelf" Chemical and Engineering News, Feb 2 2009, Volume 87, Number 05, Charles Tumosa "In this highly engaging, detailed and morbidly fascinating slim volume, chemist John Emsley narrates the stories of those who made use of science for killing their fellow beings through deadly means"The cases are fascinating for science buffs because of the scientific background about the poisons, and for others for the ingenious thinking that went both into murders and the detective work involved in solving them." Ashutosh Joglekar Blog, December 04, 2008 "This very well written book should find its way into most school libraries, as it will appeal to those - young and old - who are fascinated either by the chemistry involved, or by the history of several murder cases." Science in School, issue 13, Tim Harrison, University of Bristol. "...each chapter is full of interesting nuggets of information that you just don't find in the standard toxicology textbooks."...an excellent read for the chemist, toxicologist or occupational hygienist who is interested in the world of "true crime."...the writing is a model of clarity, the stories logically laid out."Highly recommended, too, for anybody who enjoys a good thriller!" Safety and Health Practitioner "The accounts are superbly written, with appropriate ammounts of chemistry expertly blended with gripping accounts of criminal acts."...I found this book fascinating and a brilliant mixture of chemistry and crime. The writing is excellent, the research thorough and the resulting book outstanding." Education in chemistry, John Nicholson. "This book is a must read for students of forensic science."...is the right balance between a book on toxicology and an analysis of the use of poisons in crime"The case study analysis makes the book useful in other disciplines apart from a pure science and this would be a very good text for use in criminolgy or other social science based courses"The book has a very good glossary making it a useful reference source" Physical Science Centre, Volume 9, Issue 2 "Molecules of murder is a paean to forensic chemistry. It is also an eminently readable discussion of classic poisoning cases and the science behind them." Molecular Interventions, P146.

About the Author

Dr John Emsley is best known for his series of highly readable popular science books about everyday chemistry, some of which have run into multiple editions and printings in the UK, and all of which have been translated into several other languages. He has also published in national newspapers and magazines, and he has written chemistry text books and booklets for industry. John has a carved an impressive career in popular science writing and broadcasting over the past 20 years, emphasising the benefits of chemistry, and the chemical and pharmaceutical industries. John's chemistry career started in 1960 with a PhD in phosphorus chemistry from Manchester University. With spells at the University of London, Westfield College and Kings College as lecturer and reader, he became science writer at Imperial College and then the University of Cambridge where his prolific writing career took off. With his background in chemistry he has had over 110 original research papers published, mainly on phosphorus chemistry and on hydrogen-bonded systems. He has also had more than 500 popular science articles and features published in: New Scientist, The Independent (for which he did a regular column 'Molecule of the Month' for six years), The Guardian, Chemistry in Britain, Chem Matters, Focus, Science Watch and many more. Some of his best selling popular science books include: Better Looking, Better Living, Better Loving, (2007), Elements of Murder (2005), Vanity, Vitality & Virility (2004), Nature's Building Blocks (2001), The Shocking History of Phosphorus (2000), Molecules at an Exhibition (1998) and The Consumer's Good Chemical Guide (1994, Science Book Award Winner) His skills derive from the objectivity gained through a combination of an academic background and freelance writing. The breadth and the topicality of his coverage of chemical issues is second to none, and ranges from food chemistry to advanced semiconductors, from alchemy to Viagra. Although John is primarily an inorganic chemist he has proved himself capable of covering all branches of chemistry, helped in no small way by his willingness to consult those with specialist knowledge and to enlist them in checking his texts before publication. In this way his writing has gained a reputation for thoroughness of coverage and reliability of content. No science has suffered as much from media alarms and misinformation than chemistry, and much of this would have gone unchallenged but for John Emsley. John is regularly approached by the media and asked to take part in broadcasts, more often simply seeking advice on some aspect of chemistry, and his skill is to be able to provide a clear explanation. He is well-known to many in the media and he has been a stalwart of the Association of British Science Writers for 25 years. Dr Emsley is a great science communicator. His entertaining books have contributed to the advancement of a positive awareness of science and he says of himself in the preface of his book Nature's Building Blocks: 'As a writer of popular science, I am aware of the desire of people to know more of the world about them.'

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Bill on 25 Sept. 2008
Format: Hardcover
A great read, a fascinating book that re-examined some well known murder cases but from the point of view of exploring the background of the chemicals used as poisons instead of the history or personal circumstances of the killer or the victim.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By RMH on 9 Oct. 2008
Format: Hardcover
I really enjoyed this book. If you're the kind of person who enjoys forensic thrillers you'll love this. He gives you a lot of fascinating information about some infamous murders and the poisons used but in a very readable way. It's not scientific and impenetrable! A must for murder mystery fans.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Alan Hayhurst on 5 Dec. 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a follow on book to John Emsley's "Elements of Murder, which is also a five-star read. It's about famous poisoners and famous victims, including Dr. Harold Shipman, Dr. Crippen,Adelaide Bartlett, Alexander Litvinenko and many more. The first half of each chapter begins with the author looking at the target molecule itself, its use in medicine, its toxicology and its effects on the human body. The second half then investigates a famous murder and reveals the modus operandi of the poisoner and how some were caught. It can be a little technical in places, although John Emsley does his best to make it understandable to the novice as well. Altogether, a fascinating book and one that should be on the bookshelf of all those interested in true crime, writers, forensic personnel, coroners and anyone with an interest in poisons and poisoners.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Dr Glynn on 21 July 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Quite simply excellent. Written in the usual readable Emsley style, the book details a number of murder cases in which foul play of a chemical nature was involved.
Whilst the book focuses on the chemical agents which were used to commit the various murders, it remains accessible to the non-scientist reader.
All-in-all, a thoroughly good read.
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By Angelou on 11 Jan. 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Many interesting facts and cases that involved different molecules are in this book. A very good book to broaden your knowledge of different chemicals.
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By DCE on 15 Nov. 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you are interested in science, I am, this is very interesting. John Emsley explains some of the poisons used in famous cases.
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