This book is predominantly about science. Before you dismiss the book because it might be boring or you’re “just not a science person,” consider these interesting snippets: mercury (the element, not the planet) caused literal “mad hatters,” a toxic, non-dissolving laxative made of antimony was considered so valuable that families would often pass them down from father to son, and, much like Edison and the light bulb, German chemist Robert Bunsen didn’t actually invent the Bunsen burner, he improved and popularized it. Mr. Bunsen also had a penchant for arsenic and blowing stuff up.
Fun stuff, huh?
The author discusses “True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements.” Yes, he does get a little technical at times. It is a book about science after all. I think we can all appreciate the tale about the mother of the man, Dmitri Mendeleev, who invented the periodic table: Her husband passed away and left her with fourteen children. So in 1847, she took over a local glass factory and bossed the men who worked there in order to support her family. Then the factory burned to the ground. So she took her son, Dmitri, 1,200 miles on horseback, over snowy mountains to a university in Moscow where he could further his education. They rejected him on the grounds that he was not a local. So she rode another 400 miles with him to St. Petersburg to enroll him in the university his father had attended. After he was accepted, she died.
What a woman.
This book is full of strange and wonderful tales of events that shaped the periodic table and how the periodic table has shaped our world. Five stars from me.
And if you like strange and wonderful tales, stay tuned! Next Monday I will post the first installment of the “cheese sandwich” story. You have been warned.