What we now call chemistry began in the fiery cauldrons of mystics and sorcerers seeking not to make a better world through science, but rather to make themselves richer through magic formulas and con games. But among these early magicians, frauds, and con artists were a few far-seeing â€œalchemistsâ€ who, through rigorous experimentation, transformed mysticism into science.
By the 18th century the building blocks of nature, the elements of which all matter is composed, were on the verge of being discovery. Initially, it was not easy to determine whether a substance really was an element. Was water just water, plain and simple? Or could it be the sum of other (unknown and maybe unknowable) parts? And if water was made up of other substances, how could it be broken down into discreet, fundamental, and measurable components?
Scientific historians generally credit the great 18th century French chemist Antoine Lavoisier with addressing these fundamental questions and ultimately modernizing the field of chemistry. Through his meticulous and precise work this chaotic new field of scientific inquiry was given order. Exacting by nature, Lavoisier painstakingly set about performing experiments that would provide lasting and verifiable proofs of various chemical theories. Unfortunately, the outspoken Lavoisier eventually lost his head in the Terror, but others would follow his lead, carefully examining, measuring, and recording their findings.
As the field slowly progressed, another pioneer was to emerged almost 100 years later. Dimitri Mendeleev, an eccentric genius who cut his flowing hair and beard but once a year, sought to answer the most pressing questions that remained to chemists: Why did some elements have properties that resembled those of others? Were there certain natural groups of elements? And, if so, how many, and what elements fit into them? It was Mendeleev who finally addressed all these issues when he constructed the first Periodic Table in the late 1800s.
But between and after Lavoisier and Mendeleev were a host of other colorful, brilliant scientists who made their mark on the field of chemistry. Depicting the lively careers of these scientists and their contributions while carefully deconstructing the history and the science, author Richard Morris skillfully brings it all to life. Hailed by Kirkus Reviews as a â€œclear and lively writer with a penchant for down-to-earth examplesâ€ Morrisâ€™s gift for explanation â€" and pure entertainment â€" is abundantly obvious. Taking a cue from the great chemists themselves, Morris has brewed up a potent combination of the alluringly obscure and the historically momentous, spiked with just the right dose of quirky and ribald detail to deliver a magical brew of history, science, and personalities.
History thrives on stories. TIME'S ANVIL explores archaeology's influence on what such stories say, how they are told, who tells them and how we listen.
In a dazzlingly wide-ranging exploration, Richard Morris casts fresh light on three quarters of a million years of history in the place we now think of as England. Drawing upon genres that are usually pursued in isolation - like biography, poetry, or physics - he finds potent links between things we might imagine to be unrelated. His subjects range from humanity's roots to the destruction of the wildwood, from the first farmers to industrialization, and from Tudor drama to 20th-century conflict. Each topic sits at a different point along the continuum between epoch and the fleeting moment.
In part, this is a history of archaeology; in part, too, it is a personal account of the author's history in archaeology. But mainly it is about how the past is read, and about what we bring to the reading as well as what we find. The result is a book that defies categorisation, but one which will by turns surprise, enthrall and provoke anyone who cares for England, who we are and where we have come from. TIME'S ANVIL was longlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction 2013.
“A funny and serviceable satire about the gross rationalizations that propel war and peace."- Kirkus Reviews
“I love the way Wilfred recycles the bodies. That's fabulous stuff with a direct line to Heller's Catch-22 and perfectly captures the insanity of the Vietnam War."
- Richard Peabody, Editor of Gargoyle Magazine
Acclaimed Science writer Richard Morris guides us on a fascinating, literate and entertaining tour of the efforts made throughout history to make sense of the mind-bending concept of the infinite. In tracing this quest, Morris shows us how each new encounter with infinity drove the advancement of physics and mathematics. Along the way, we encounter such luminaries as Galileo and Newton, Tycho Brahe and Giordano Bruno, and the giants of modern physics: Planck, Einstein, Bohr, Feynmann, Hawking, and numerous others.
Beginning with simple logical puzzles and progressing to the latest cosmological theories, Morris shows how these same infinity problems helped spawn such groundbreaking scientific developments as relativity and quantum mechanics. Though in many ways, the infinite is just as baffling today as it was in antiquity, contemporary scientists are probing ever deeper into the nature of our universe and catching fleeting glimpses of the infinite in ways the ancients could never have imagined.
Ultimately, we see that hidden within the theoretical possibility of an infinite number of universes may lie the answers to some of humankind's most fundamental questions: Why is there something rather than nothing? Why are we here?