Mendeleyev's Dream: The Quest For the Elements

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Mendeleyev's Dream: The Quest For the Elements

Mendeleyev's Dream: The Quest For the Elements

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There is always a risk that ‘history of science’ books concentrate on the ripping historical yarns at the expense of explaining the science.

The argument was conducted entirely within the realms of this world, from which evidence could be gathered to prove or disprove its conclusions. 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. For example, playwright Christopher Marlowe could hardly have been involved in the Gunpowder Plot, since he was murdered 12 years earlier. By using the Web site, you confirm that you have read, understood, and agreed to be bound by the Terms and Conditions.The author points out repeatedly how superstition which includes major world religions slowed the progress of science. Plus there was a lot of detail on the more primitive scientists and I admittedly was more interested in John Dalton and after. This idea, once conceived, was quickly developed by Thales’ pupils in Miletus – the philosophers known as the Milesian school. Chemistry has been a neglected area of science writing and Mendeleyev, the king of chemistry, is a largely forgotten genius. From ancient philosophy through medieval alchemy to the splitting of the atom, this is the true story of the birth of chemistry and the role of one man’s dream.

I'm reading this book to learn about science: I didn't want to know about the sex lives of famous scientists. Strathern does an excellent job revitalizing the drama of chemistry’s volatile mix of ideas and substances. He is able to situate himself in a person's life in its historical context without making a fuss about it. What Mendeleyev discovered on 17 February 1869 was the culmination of a two-and-a-half-thousand-year epic: a wayward parable of human aspiration.August Kekulé, the principal founder of the theory of chemical structure, dreamt of “atoms gambolling before my eyes! Change country: -Select- Albania Algeria American Samoa Andorra Angola Anguilla Antigua and Barbuda Argentina Armenia Aruba Australia Bahamas Bahrain Bangladesh Barbados Belgium Belize Benin Bermuda Bhutan Bolivia Bosnia and Herzegovina Botswana Brazil British Virgin Islands Brunei Darussalam Bulgaria Burkina Faso Burundi Cambodia Cameroon Canada Cape Verde Islands Cayman Islands Central African Republic Chad Chile China Colombia Comoros Cook Islands Costa Rica Cyprus Czech Republic Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast) Democratic Republic of the Congo Denmark Djibouti Dominica Dominican Republic Ecuador Egypt El Salvador Equatorial Guinea Eritrea Estonia Ethiopia Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas) Finland France French Guiana French Polynesia Gabon Republic Gambia Ghana Gibraltar Greece Greenland Grenada Guadeloupe Guam Guatemala Guernsey Guinea Guinea-Bissau Guyana Haiti Honduras Hong Kong Hungary Iceland India Indonesia Iraq Ireland Israel Italy Jamaica Japan Jersey Jordan Kenya Kiribati Kuwait Kyrgyzstan Laos Latvia Lebanon Lesotho Liberia Liechtenstein Lithuania Luxembourg Macau Macedonia Madagascar Malawi Malaysia Maldives Mali Malta Marshall Islands Martinique Mauritania Mauritius Mayotte Mexico Micronesia Moldova Monaco Mongolia Montenegro Montserrat Morocco Namibia Nepal Netherlands Netherlands Antilles New Zealand Nicaragua Niger Niue Norway Oman Pakistan Palau Panama Papua New Guinea Paraguay Peru Philippines Poland Portugal Puerto Rico Qatar Republic of Croatia Republic of the Congo Reunion Romania Saint Helena Saint Kitts-Nevis Saint Lucia Saint Vincent and the Grenadines San Marino Saudi Arabia Senegal Serbia Sierra Leone Singapore Slovakia Slovenia Solomon Islands South Africa South Korea Spain Sri Lanka Suriname Svalbard and Jan Mayen Swaziland Sweden Switzerland Taiwan Tajikistan Tanzania Thailand Togo Tonga Trinidad and Tobago Tunisia Turkey Turkmenistan Turks and Caicos Islands Tuvalu Uganda Ukraine United Arab Emirates United Kingdom United States Uruguay Uzbekistan Vanuatu Vatican City State Venezuela Virgin Islands (U. Mendeleyev and others like him spent a lifetime accumulating knowledge, sticking to it and taking risks, often at the expense of their happiness, reputations, fortunes and even their lives. No missing or damaged pages, no creases or tears, no underlining or highlighting of text, and no writing in the margins. Indeed, in 1875 Paul Lecoq identified gallium, which had all the properties needed to fill the gap between aluminium and uranium.

This I thought was essential to understanding how those contributions helped Mendeleyev assembled the elements in one table. Strathern's "Big Idea" series of scientific biography and his "Philosophy in 90 Minutes" series, both designed for the novice, prepared him well for the task of relating the personalities and philosophies of these elemental discoverers to the nonscientist. And it was frustrating that the whirlwind history was so short of the details of exaclty what these minds worked out and exactly how they did it - to me the chemistry should have been the nub of the book. Dmitri Mendeleyev was not the only scientist to find the answer to a puzzle in the murky world of the subconscious. He struggled to find an underlying principle that would organize them according to sets of similar properties and eventually reaped the benefits of the pattern-recognition that fuels creativity.First there was the seeking of direct profitable results (gold, philosopher's stone, life elixers), and this seems to change in looking for rather more abstract results ('knowledge', fame, status). Even though Strathern prose is pleasant and the content interesting, I prefer the former more direct approach. Five if you count aether, which Aristotle invented to explain the movement of the planets and which reappeared in various guises down the ages.

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