John Emsley's Nature's Building Bocks was published in paperback in 2003. In this readable, informative, and fascinating guide to the elements are entries on each of the 100-odd chemical elements, arranged alphabetically from actinium to zirconium. Each entry comprises an explanation of where the element's name comes from, followed by Body element (the role it plays in living things), Element of history (how and when it was discovered), Economic element (what it is used for), Environmental element (where it occurs, how much), Chemical element (facts, figures, and narrative), and Element of surprise (an amazing, little-known fact). Since publication of the first edition there have been a number of developments. Three new chemical elements have been named and validated: darmstadtium, roetgenium, and copernicium and the section on 'transfermium elements' has now been incorporated into the main part of the book. Economic uses of elements have grown, and some quite rare elements such as Scandium are now economically important, along with updates to elements such as gold due to new roles in industry. Fully revised and updated for 2010, this browsable compendium holds a wealth of useful information.
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.