The Emperor of Scent by Chandler Burr
A Story of Perfume, Obsession, and the Last Mystery of the Senses

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For as long as anyone can remember, a man named Luca Turin has had an uncanny relationship with smells. He has been compared to the hero of Patrick Süskind’s novel Perfume, but his story is in fact stranger, because it is true. It concerns how he made use of his powerful gifts to solve one of the last great mysteries of the human body: how our noses work.

Luca Turin can distinguish the components of just about any smell, from the world’s most refined perfumes to the air in a subway car on the Paris metro. A distinguished scientist, he once worked in an unrelated field, though he made a hobby of collecting fragrances. But when, as a lark, he published a collection of his reviews of the world’s perfumes, the book hit the small, insular business of perfume makers like a thunderclap. Who is this man Luca Turin, they demanded, and how does he know so much? The closed community of scent creation opened up to Luca Turin, and he discovered a fact that astonished him: no one in this world knew how smell worked. Billions and billions of dollars were spent creating scents in a manner amounting to glorified trial and error.

The solution to the mystery of every other human sense has led to the Nobel Prize, if not vast riches. Why, Luca Turin thought, should smell be any different? So he gave his life to this great puzzle. And in the end, incredibly, it would seem that he solved it. But when enormously powerful interests are threatened and great reputations are at stake, Luca Turin learned, nothing is quite what it seems.

Acclaimed writer Chandler Burr has spent four years chronicling Luca Turin’s quest to unravel the mystery of how our sense of smell works. What has emerged is an enthralling, magical book that changes the way we think about that area between our mouth and our eyes, and its profound, secret hold on our lives.

From the Hardcover edition.

About Chandler Burr

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Chandler Burr is the author of A Separate Creation: The Search for the Biological Origins of Sexual Orientation. He has contributed to The Atlantic and has written for The New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and other publications.
Published January 21, 2003 by Random House. 352 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Professional & Technical, Business & Economics, Science & Math. Non-fiction

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The theory introduces a whole new wrinkle to what is known about molecular recognition, though the lay audience, happy to have made it through the intelligible science, will be happier still when the spotlight falls on Turin himself, an appealing and genuine maverick who, in bringing quantum mech...

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Lyrical and analytic, harrowing and hilarious, a page-turner and a philosophical inquiry, Chandler Burr's THE EMPEROR OF SCENT employs its juxtapositions to jolt the reader's mind like a whiff of smelling salts.

Jan 21 2011 | Read Full Review of The Emperor of Scent: A Story...

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