A Short History of Chemistry

The easy style and the sympathy for the reader that have made Isaac Asimov one of the most successful writers on science of all time are applied here to the fascinating history of Professor Asimov’s own field of specialization. From the Bronze Age to the Nuclear Age the story of the step-by-step advance through the mysteries of the elements is recounted, and the impact of the great discoveries on civilization through applied chemistry is set forth in all its drama.

Like its companion volume, A Short History of Biology, this book is what its title says it is. Here, however, the general tendency towards history stays true throughout the volume and only breaks down in a few places.

On the other hand, the ending of the book is about nuclear physics, which is chemistry only by a long stretch of the imagination.

As with A Short History of Biology, this isn’t the most exciting book Asimov ever wrote. There’s little if anything here that isn’t elsewhere among Asimov’s opera. On the other hand, the book does represent a unique arrangement of material— one doesn’t get the feeling that this is pretty much the same old material under a new set of covers. I would, therefore, tend to rate it a bit higher than A Short History of Biology, which tends to provoke a sense of déjà vu repeatedly as one reads.

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