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Seven Elements That Have Changed The World: Iron, Carbon, Gold, Silver, Uranium, Titanium, Silicon Hardcover – 25 Apr 2013


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: W&N (25 April 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0297868055
  • ISBN-13: 978-0297868057
  • Product Dimensions: 16 x 2.7 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 338,456 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

'The progress and prosperity that humanity has achieved ...', writes John Browne, `is driven by people - scientists, business people and politicians'. The author has the rare distinction of having wide and deep experience of all three fields, and this is what makes Seven Elements such a fascinating and enjoyable book. Part popular science, part history, part memoir, these pages are infused with insight, shaped by the experience of a FTSE 100 Chief Executive and lifted by the innate optimism of a scientist. (Brian Cox)

Seven Elements is a boon for those, like me, who gave up science much too soon in our teens. John Browne has found a fascinating way of helping us break through the crust of our ignorance. The scientific literate too will relish his personal mix of historical knowledge and technical prowess with his gift for making the complicated understandable. (Peter Hennessy)

The human quest for knowledge and insight has led to extraordinary progress. It has transformed the lives we lead and the world we live in. But that onward march has also thrown us huge challenges about how we treat each other and the planet on which we live.

This book forces us to confront these realities and does it in a unique and fascinating way. It weaves science and humanity together in a way that gives us new insight. This is an expertly crafted book by a unique thinker and talented engineer and businessman.

(Tony Blair)

John Browne uses seven elements, building blocks of the physical world, to explore a multitude of worlds beyond. From the rise of civilizations, to some of today's most important challenges and opportunities, to the frontiers of research, he weaves together science, history, politics and personal experience. Browne tells a lively story that enables us to see the essential elements of modern life in a new, original and highly engaging way. (Daniel Yergin, Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Quest: Energy, Security and the Making of the Modern World and The Prize)

[T]his is a gripping tale of how people have utilised the intrinsic powers of the elements to shape our cultural, social and economic existence. (GOOD BOOK GUIDE)

Book Description

Iron, carbon, gold, silver, uranium, titanium, and silicon - how seven elements have changed the 21st century, for good and bad.

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3.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By lynchy on 21 Jan. 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Got this thinking it would give an overview of 7 elements and how they changed the world. However, it should be titled "Me, My Job in the Oil and Gas industry and How Good I Was Doing It.

Every few pages John reminds us that he worked for BP, and as far as iron and carbon are concerned, they only seem to have been used or produced in the oil and gas sector. I got bored at this point and decided to take a look at the pictures. On every page John is posing for the camera at meetings, seminars and other bewildering situations that bare no correlation to the title.

If you want a book about science that talks about the elements, spend your money on Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By J. Morris TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 12 May 2014
Format: Paperback
The author John Browne, was the group chief executive of BP from 1995-2007 - as a result some of his observations really need to be taken with a pinch of salt. As such, he has met with and on occasion, done business with some rather disreputable leaders, Qadaffi, Putin & Blair to name a few.

He recaps the elements Iron, Carbon, Gold, Silver, Uranium, Titanium and Silicon. Giving the history of their discovery, development, usage and the effect that they have had on the modern day world. I found this deeply interesting from a purely chemical element perspective as it really paints a much broader picture than a listing of statistics about each element. From the development of steel using iron, automobiles using petroleum to the conquistadors march across South America for gold - this book really has a broad sense of scale when it comes to the applications and effect of each element on the world. Especially when it is considered how broad the reach of a single element and its effect on the development of society can be.

What irked me at several points - something other reviews have already pointed out - is the slant of John Browne's experience, his description of the Exxon Valdez disaster for example is heavily mitigated by pointing out that there have been worse oil spills previously. He then proceeds to mawkishly lament the Macondo well disaster, all issues caused by the very company he was at the helm of. When referencing oil he talks about Tony Blair's foresight for action on climate change, lauding a man most consider amoral. Given that Tony Blair provides a cover reference for the book, this has to be considered in a different light.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Jack the Lad on 18 April 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This tries to be a scientific book but fails because of Brownes insistence on reminding us how rich he is (pad in Venice buys expensive works of art and books etc) and how well he did his job. What really niggles me in this type of book are the 'notes'. On the chapter about carbon there are 121 instances of those annoyingly small subscript numbers where to find out what he's talking about you have to go to the back, find the notes section, find the right chapter and then find the right note, then you can read the detail, why this detail cannot be included in the main text totally confuses me.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Athan on 16 May 2014
Format: Paperback
First things first: the author is a proper legend. Under his watch BP scooped up Amoco when oil was trading somewhere in the gutter and the Economist magazine was predicting cheap oil forever. It was a time when you had decide if you'd double up or cash out and he deserves a lot of the credit for BP doubling up at the lows. Also under his watch, BP managed the feat of being the only western oil company to take money out of Russia. Proper money, Like, they put in some 8 billion to buy half of TNK, took out something like 15 billion in dividends and cashed out for a similar amount. Also, he's the man who brought us "Beyond Petroleum."

But of course he will mainly be remembered for the scandal that brought him down, and from my angle it appears that writing books is basically what he's now doing to keep himself busy. But it's not exactly a passion. It never feels like he really had to write this book.

John Browne comes across like he's only ever had one passion: for business and for BP in particular. He was born into BP, he travelled the world as a youngster following his dad's various postings and after a brief interlude for college ended back at BP. At BP he drilled for oil, before moving on to running the show. When he got to the top he got to know about the rest of the world via his various board memberships and acquired the wealth that allowed him to indulge in his various hobbies (as opposed to passions)

The "Seven Elements that Have Changed the World" basically amounts to a list of the various things he found out by being such a successful and important person within such an important and powerful organisation. It could have been called "a bunch of interesting stuff I could not help finding out while I was running BP.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By R. Bawden jazz fan on 12 Oct. 2014
Format: Paperback
I found this book extremely informative and appreciate the title, but I had anticipated it to include more chemical facts than it did. It isn't really a science book and perhaps was never intended to be so but its title implies that it (probably) is.
Hence the lower grade...a misleading title, or at least, a title capable of misapprehension.
The book clearly is far more autographical and John Browne includes many personal references. As it happens I am rather pleased that I bought the book under a misapprehension because I learnt much non-scientific information regarding economics and finance. There are many references to history, say the life of Carnegie, the philanthropist, for example. The book can be read cover to cover or dipped into chapter by chapter.
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