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Mendeleyev's Dream: The Quest For the Elements

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The dream, of course, was just a function of what the human brain normally does during sleep — organizing and consolidating the ideas, images, and bits of information that occupy our waking hours. Now that Imitation Game about Alan Turing is still in the theatres, the reader appreciates all the more what singular characters it takes to make significant advances in science or any other human endeavour for that matter. Paul Strathern tells the dramatic and entertaining story of humankind's quest to discover the fundamentals of chemistry, culminating in Mendeleyev's dream of the Periodic Table. In its pages there are more asides, anecdotes, ammunition for pub quizzes, personal information about alchemists, scientists, chemists, and charlatans, and touches of humor than the reader has a right to expect. Framing this history is the life story of the 19th Century Russian scientist Dmitri Mendeleyev, who fell asleep at his desk and awoke having dreamed the periodic table - the template upon which modern chemistry is founded, and the event which marked chemistry's coming of age as a science.

Indian mathematical genius and dreamer Srinivasa Ramanujan often dreamt of a Hindu goddess, named Namakkal, who would appear and present mathematical formulae which he would verify after waking. Of course, he had it coming to him because he was just a stupid, benighted alchemist, a charlatan and a fraud. I’m not sure how interesting it would be for someone who hasn’t taken chemistry and physics courses but I certainly enjoyed it! Strathern conjures up from the dusty past, and richly fleshes out for us, the long line of extraordinary characters, their lives, influences, and contributions that eventually produced modern chemistry that has so profoundly shaped the modern world.However, it is unclear why Strathern chooses to linger over some personalities, while he zooms through dozens of others so rapidly that their names and achievements blur together. 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, European Union, 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. 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. Meyer’s doubts about the anomalies in his tables prevented him from making the leap of faith that Mendeleyev made and stuck to. Where there were missing elements in his early tables, Mendeleyev postulated that these represented elements not yet discovered.

A history of chemistry, starting with ancient philosophy, via alchemy, and culminating in Mendeleyev's periodic table.I have no staff, no interns, not even an assistant — a thoroughly one-woman labor of love that is also my life and my livelihood.

Most of the alchemist and scientist names sounded familiar and I remembered most of their contribution thanks to Asimov’s remarkable style: easy-to-read but powerful and engaging as a good novel. I strongly recommend this book not only for the insight it provides but for the way it allows any reader to access one of the huge steps humankind took to understand the universe (the reason we are here). This wonderful story reminds us that the birth of modern chemistry and particle physics can both be linked directly to Mendeleyev's discovery of the periodic table, published 1869. Most amusing (and tedious) of all was the chapter on Paracelsus, because Strathern couldn't decide what attitude to have toward him, and he literally alternates back and forth from one paragraph to the next. If this labor makes your own life more livable in any way, please consider aiding its sustenance with a one-time or loyal donation.

However, the title of the book sets up wrong expectations that the book would be focused on Mendeleyev's life and work.

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