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The Elements: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) Paperback – 8 Apr 2004


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The Elements: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) + The Periodic Table: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) + Molecules: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 186 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford (8 April 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192840991
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192840998
  • Product Dimensions: 17.3 x 1.5 x 10.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 115,447 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

Philip Ball is a freelance science writer. He worked at Nature for over 20 years, first as an editor for physical sciences (for which his brief extended from biochemistry to quantum physics and materials science) and then as a Consultant Editor. His writings on science for the popular press have covered topical issues ranging from cosmology to the future of molecular biology.

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Review

Ball is one of the most prolific and imaginative of contemporary science writers. He has plenty of attitude, boasts a fine knowledge of visual art and a literary sensibility, and his science is encyclopaedic. (Chemistry in Britain)

A delight of a book.... Elegantly written...it's far-reaching, entertaining and salted with anecdote.... It could become a classic. Hold on to your first edition (Roy Herbert, New Scientist)

engaging tour of the chemical elements (Sunday Telegraph)

Philip Ball's book is an excellent introduction. I would have loved the book as an enthusiastic sixteen year-old and I would recommend it as a Christmas present to anyone at that age, and to journalists who may occasionally wish to appear smarter than they actually are. (Simon Robinson, Chemistry and Industry)

a series of invigorating dips (Guardian)

Ball's choices are sound, his style is attractive (Evening Standard)

Ball brings the periodic table to life (Maia Weinstock, Discover)

A beautifully written and elegantly illustrated synthesis of chemistry and culture. Popularization of science at its very best. (Sir John Meurig Thomas, University of Cambridge)

The book contains some delightful anecdotes (David Johnson, Times Higher Educational Supplement)

About the Author

Philip Ball is a science writer and a consultant editor for Nature, where he was formerly an editor for physical science for over 10 years. He writes about all areas of science for the international press, and has broadcast on TV and radio. His previous books include Designing the Molecular World, The Self-Made Tapestry, H20: A Biography of Water, and Stories of the Invisible: A guided tour of molecules. He holds a degree in chemistry from Oxford University and a doctorate in physics from Bristol University. He lives in London, where his Homunculus Theatre Company occasionally performs on a shoestring budget.

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In 1624 the French chemist Etienne de Clave was arrested for heresy. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Steve on 26 Jan 2010
Format: Paperback
Previously published as 'The Ingredients: A Guided Tour of the Elements', this book lends itself well to the Very Short Introduction format. It is the second adaptation in the series from gifted science writer Philip Ball, and like his first VSI (Molecules) it is well-paced, nicely-illustrated, and radiates his enthusiasm for the discipline. In 170 pages he takes the reader on a carefully selected journey through chemistry: from its earliest origins right up to its significance in cutting edge technology.

He begins with the system of four elements proposed by the ancient Greeks - air, earth, fire and water, before moving on to the medieval alchemists' belief in the transmutation of the elements, and then the back-to-front 'phlogiston theory' of the 18th century, that would eventually lead to the discovery of oxygen. He also devotes a chapter to gold - its extraction, its symbolism and its practical uses. It isn't until chapter 4 that we see how the elements are actually organized, from Dalton's atomic symbols, to the modern Periodic Table. We also learn what a particular element's placement in the Table can tell us about its properties.

The rest of the book covers the 20th century to the present day. Chapter 5 focuses on the race to make new elements, and covers nuclear fission and fusion. Chapter 6 looks at the discovery of isotopes and the groundbreaking ways they were put to use, from carbon-dating to medical imaging. Finally, chapter 7 explores an arbitrary selection of lesser-known elements and examines their practical usage, from the noble gas argon, to palladium, once known as 'new silver', now the vital component of catalytic converters.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Peter Reeve VINE VOICE on 2 Oct 2005
Format: Paperback
If you are familiar with this series, you will not be surprised to learn that this book is not a conventional tour of the periodic table. In fact, the table does not make an appearance until half way through. Part of what the author does is to illustrate the impact of Earth's elements on human history. The stories of oxygen and gold are singled out for particular attention. This is not the book you need for a first chemistry course. It is what you need to get you enthused about the subject, to help you appreciate what an exciting and significant discipline it can be.
This fine series is slightly marred by a tendency to typographic error. This book is no exception, and you will struggle to make sense of figure 15(b). Oddly, in the list of figures at the front, there is a request that readers notify the publishers of errors in the list. I don't think I've seen anything quite like that in any book before. It suggests that they realize they have a proofreading problem. Instead of asking readers to be on the alert, wouldn't it be better just to have a word with the printer?
At 179 pages, this is one of the longer entries in the series, and every page glows with the author's enthusiasm for his subject. It adopts a rambling, somewhat unstructured approach but is packed full of fascinating historical and scientific detail. And yes, when the author does finally get around to the periodic table, he gives as good an explanation of it as you will find anywhere.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By M. Pennington on 19 Nov 2006
Format: Paperback
It's great to read a science book by someone who can see beyond his own little world. The elements? Let's start with the ancients, Greeks and the like, and work from there. Fantastic! I've ordered the sequel (Molecules) already.
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By A. Hall on 17 Feb 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you need a succinct account about the elements-this short introduction is the book for you. Well set out and easy to understand. If you need something to get you in the mood, I would suggest Angels and Alchemists by A Hall (no relation). Also 'Periodic Tales' is a good read for the budding chemist.
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