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On a wintry February day in 1869 the great Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleyev fell asleep at his desk after a marathon game of patience. When he woke, he looked at the delicately logical arrangement of the cards and saw the solution to a problem that had been vexing him for years: how to tabulate all the known different chemicals in a rational, coherent and meaningful way.
But how did he get there, intellectually? Was he just a dwarf standing on the shoulder of giants? Or uniquely gifted? On the basis of the facts and anecdotes Strathern skilfully weaves together here, the whole historical drama of chemical science, from the Four Elements of the Greeks, through the gold-hunting alchemy of the Arabs, to the near-misses (Phlogiston) of the Enlightenment, had been a kind of narrative prologue, building up to that seminal February day in Moscow and Mendeleyev's discovery of the Periodic Table.
Strathern's style is polished, lucid and easy-going. It is also extremely well matched to the fascinating story adduced in this absorbing and enlightening book.--Sean Thomas --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Paul Strathern studied physics, chemistry and maths at Trinity College, Dublin, before switching to philosophy. He is author of several novels, including A Season in Abyssinia, which won the Somerset Maugham prize, and two successful series - Philosophy in 90 Minutes and The Big Idea: Scientists Who Changed the World.
Great, great, great if I didn't think so I would not give it 5 stars.Published 12 months ago by Mr. Rodney Walker
I've always had a layman's interest in science (i.e. watching the occasional episode of `Horizon' on BBC) but could never really summon much interest for it at school. Read morePublished on 28 Jan. 2011 by Dom
Excellent plot ! Covers so much in one book and kept me interested all the way through. Gives you a real curiosity about the discoveries of those elements not covered though - can... Read morePublished on 29 Jun. 2010 by C.Muck.
I was quite angered by this book in places. The author takes an extremely judgemental view on history, regarding anything which was later to be revealed as incorrect as a dead end... Read morePublished on 8 Nov. 2009 by Sulkyblue
Even though the title of this books suggests that it's about Mendeleyev and his famous dream, most of the book is taken up with the history of chemistry that led up to the moment... Read morePublished on 24 July 2005 by Sally-Anne
Mendeleyev would certain dream if he had read this. The best cure for insomnia I've ever encountered. There is just simply too much history and not enough periodic table. Read morePublished on 22 Aug. 2003 by .
An excellent story, extremely well told in a manner that engages. The book is not a detailed biography of Medeleyev, but a history of the discovery of the elements through the... Read morePublished on 11 Feb. 2003 by Martin Ohara
Just a shame it finishes with Mendeleev's perioidic table. It's not a very good finishing point as the history after the first table is as interesting as what went beforePublished on 13 Oct. 2001 by Richard Laven
This book not only covers Mendyleyev but it also basically tells the history of chemistry. It is brilliant. Read morePublished on 16 Sept. 2001 by firstname.lastname@example.org