Mendeleyev's Dream by Paul Strathern
The Quest for the Elements

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In this elegant, erudite, but entertaining book, Paul Strathern, the award-winning novelist and expositor of complex ideas, unravels the dramatic history of chemistry through the quest for the elements.

Framing this history is the life story of the nineteenth-century Russian scientist Dmitri Mendeleyev, who fell asleep at his desk and awoke after conceiving the periodic table in a dream-the template upon which modern chemistry is founded and the formulation of which marked chemistry's coming of age as a science. 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.

About Paul Strathern

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Paul Strathern was born in London in 1940. He studied physics, chemistry, and math at Trinity College, Dublin, before switching to philosophy. He is the author of several novels, including A Season in Abyssinia, which won a Somerset Maugham prize, and two highly successful series of short introductory books, Philosophers in 90 Minutes and The Big Idea: Scientists Who Changed the World. Paul Strathern lectures in philosophy and science at Kingston University.
Published April 21, 2001 by Thomas Dunne Books. 320 pages
Genres: Science & Math. Non-fiction

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Finally, the author sees in the gnome-like, isolated figure of Mendeleyev a template both for the eternally lonesome scientific quest and for the structuring of chemical understanding (upon which biological understanding is predicated).

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(For example, playwright Christopher Marlowe could hardly have been involved in the Gunpowder Plot, since he was murdered 12 years earlier.) Strathern too frequently wanders off on overly extended tangents about historical figures like Sir Francis Bacon, certainly a man important to the history o...

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