We take coal for granted but it took thousands of years for man to discover that some black stones were pieces of coal that could burn and be used as fuel.

Where does coal come from? How was it formed? What is the future of coal in our economy? How do we deal with disadvantages such as the greenhouse effect?

Isaac Asimov traces the history of the discover of coal and, in his usual clear style, tells a fascinating story.

This is one of the sub-series of “energy” books in the How Did We Find Out series, which includes titles such as How Did We Find Out About Energy? and How Did We Find Out About Solar Power?. I must admit, however, that I cannot get terribly excited about coal. I realize, of course, that it is an important source of power even in our modern age (although arguably less important than a century ago, when houses also depended on coal for heating), and I know about the hard work put in by coal miners, the dangers they face, and the heroism they are sometimes called upon to show. Still, it’s had little direct impact on my own life. Of all the major energy sources in use, I’m probably less aware of coal than anything else—it just sits there in the background doing its job while oil and hydroelectricity hog all the glory.

So although I would heartily recommend this book to a youngster who wants to know all about coal, I find myself frankly perplexed as to who exactly that child might be, unless related to someone in the coal industry. (I’m being unfair to coal; I know, I know. But fear not, Gentle Reader, for when I am struck blind for not showing coal the proper respect, I will be forced to read the one Asimov book I own in braille over and over: How Did We Find Out About Coal?.)

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