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John Read

Written for the layman, this accessible history takes a broad, humanistic perspective, eschewing chemical equations & formulae. Instead it concentrates on the Great figures of chemistry & the ideas that revolutionized the science, from earliest history to the modern era.

Much of the book is devoted to alchemy & such topics as the philosopher's stone, alchemical crypticism & symbolism, pseudo-alchemists, Paracelsus, & the "swan song" of alchemy as the scientific revolution took hold. In the final chapters, the author takes up the development of modern chemistry, including atomic theory, the Nature of the elements, the beginning of organic chemistry, & more. Broad in scope, erudite yet readable, this rich & absorbing narrative will appeal to anyone interested in the long & colorful history of chemical science.

"Chemistry, in particular, is capable, when suitably presented, of making a strong appeal to the intelligence & the imagination; for, as the following pages are intended to show, it is the most romantic of all the branches of science; & in its variegated history, stretching back through unnumbered generations of alchemists into an indefinite past, its present votaries have (if they but knew) a richly human & humanistic heritage." — from the Preface