Napoleon's Buttons

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Penguin, May 24, 2004 - Science - 384 pages
2 Reviews
Napoleon's Buttons is the fascinating account of seventeen groups of molecules that have greatly influenced the course of history. These molecules provided the impetus for early exploration, and made possible the voyages of discovery that ensued. The molecules resulted in grand feats of engineering and spurred advances in medicine and law; they determined what we now eat, drink, and wear. A change as small as the position of an atom can lead to enormous alterations in the properties of a substance-which, in turn, can result in great historical shifts.

With lively prose and an eye for colorful and unusual details, Le Couteur and Burreson offer a novel way to understand the shaping of civilization and the workings of our contemporary world.
 

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Napoleon's buttons: how 17 molecules changed history

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

The anecdote of the titular buttons is related in the introduction: supposedly, the tin buttons on the uniforms of Napoleon's army became brittle and disintegrated in the cold Russian winter ... Read full review

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It's difficult to say whether this is a very good book or not. The authors promised in the introduction that the chemistry would be simple but it is not. People who are not familiar with basic and organic chemistry may not readily understand it.
The history was good and adequate for readers who just want to know how some of the molecules changed the world.
It is well balanced between science n history. You will not be disappointed. It is easy to read too.
 

Contents

ORGANICISNT THAT GARDENING?
DO WE HAVE TO?
A BRIEF HISTORY OF PEPPER
HOT CHEMISTRY
THE LURE OF SPICES
THE AROMATIC MOLECULES OF CLOVES AND NUTMEG
NUTMEG AND NEW YORK
SCURVY AT SEA
THE LEGACY OF DYE S
ASPIRIN
THE SAGA OF SULFA
PENICILLINS
EARLY ATTEMPTS AT ORAL CONTRACEPTION
STEROIDS
THE AMAZING ADVENTURE S OF RUSSELL MARKER
SYNTHESIS OF OTHER STEROIDS

HUNDREDSSCURVY NIL
A SMALL MOLECULE IN A BIG ROLE
SCURVY ON ICE
SLAVERY AND SUGAR CULTIVATION
SWEET CHEMISTRY
SWEET TASTE
SWEET NOTHING
COTTON AND THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION
CELLULOSE A STRUCTURAL POLYSACCHARIDE
STORAGE POLYSACCHARIDES
CELLULOSE MAKES A BIG BANG
GUNPOWDERTHE FIRST EXPLOSIVE
EXPLOSIVE CHEMISTRY
NOBELS DYNAMITE IDEA
WAR AND EXPLOSIVES
THE SPREAD OF SILK
THE CHEMISTRY OF SHEEN AND SPARKLE
THE SEARCH FOR SYNTHETIC SILK
NYLONA NEW ARTIFICIAL SILK
STERILE SURGERY
MANYFACETED PHENOLS
PHENOL IN PLASTICS
A PHENOL FOR FLAVOR
ORIGINS OF RUBBER
CIS AND TRANS
RUBBERS PROMOTERS
WHAT MAKES IT STRETCH?
RUBBER AFFECTS HISTORY
HISTORY AFFECTS RUBBER
PRIMARY COLORS
SYNTHETIC DYES
THE MOTHERS OF THE PILL
TOIL AND TROUBLE
HEALING HERBS HARMFUL HERBS
THE ERGOT ALKALOID S
THE OPIUM WARS
IN THE ARMS OF MORPHEUS
DRINKING SMOKE
THE STIMULATING STRUCTURE OF CAFFEINE
THE LORE OF THE OLIVE
THE CHEMISTRY OF OLIVE OIL
TRADE IN OLIVE OIL
SOAP FROM OLIVE OIL
GETTING SALT
TRADING SALT
THE STRUCTURE OF SALT
THE BODYS NEED FOR SALT
TAXING SALT
SALT AS A STARTING MATERIAL
KEEPING COOL
FABULOUS FREONS
FREONS REVEAL THEIR DARK SIDE
THE DARK SIDE OF CHLORINE
PCBSFURTHER TROUBLE FROM CHLORINATED COMPOUNDS
CHLORINE IN PESTICIDESFROM BOON TO BANE TO BANNED
MOLECULES THAT PUT YOU TO SLEEP
QUININENATURES ANTIDOTE
THE SYNTHESIS OF QUININE
MANS SOLUTION TO MALARIA
HEMOGLOBINNATURES PROTECTION
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About the author (2004)

Jay Burreson, Ph.D., has worked as an industrial chemist and held a National Institutes of Health special fellowship for research on chemical compounds in marine life. He is also the general manager of a high-tech company.

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