A collection of seventeen essays selected from Isaac Asimov’s earlier works on the various fields of chemistry—inorganic, nuclear, organic, biochemistry and geochemistry—updated and enriched by new photographs with extensive captions.

Here is Asimov at his best—explaining the mysteries of the phlogiston theory (in 1700 it was believed that inflammable substances burned according to the amount of phlogiston they contained), deciphering those tongue-twisting names for organic compounds (“alpha-dee-glucosido-beta-dee-fructofuranoside” is ordinary table sugar), exploring the possibilities of life on other planets (based on ammonia, methane, or sulfur, on Jupiter, Saturn, or Mercury), and offering practical applications of scientific theories (man’s excessive pollution of the atmosphere could change Earth’s geology and eliminate future Ice Ages).

With a remarkable background in chemistry and an unbounded imagination, Dr. Asimov takes us on a trip from the inner workings of the atom to the outer reaches of the solar system.

The second of Asimov’s essay recyclings—Asimov on Astronomy was the first, q.v.—and the first I actually owned, there is little to be said here that was not said already. It’s a good collection of good essays, slightly less dusty than they had been before and in a form better-suited for using as reference material.

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