The Elements of Murder : A History of Poison: A History of Poison

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OUP Oxford, Apr 28, 2005 - Science - 436 pages
How can a chemical we need on a daily basis to keep us healthy be fatal at a different dose? Why should elements that are intrinsically dangerous be used in medicine? How did poisoners use the chemical properties of chemicals to cover their tracks? Emsley gives detailed histories of five of the most toxic elements - arsenic, antimony, lead, mercury, and thallium, highlighting some of the most famous murders and how the murderers used the chemical properties of elements to hide what they were doing. He shows how the elements have been behind many modern day environmental catastrophes including accidental mass poisonings from lead and arsenic, and the Minamata Bay Disaster in Japan. The array of fascinating stories shows how chemicals have impacted the lives of people ranging from the Greeks and Romans to Newton, Napoleon, Lucrezia Borgia, Mozart, Nelson Mandela, and Saddam Hussein. Emsley also touches on subjects close to home: cot deaths, laxatives, venereal disease, alleged cures for acne, hangovers, and insanity.

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User Review  - JKoetsier - LibraryThing

Although the subject is very interesting, and the anecdotes are lovely, the book does not read very well. A lot of facts are presented in a way that is not always very organized. But, overall, a very interesting book! Read full review

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User Review  - GavinBowtell - LibraryThing

This book was promising. My advice would be to read the introduction which is well written and interesting and ignore the rest of it. Everything that followed the introduction was of such a poor ... Read full review

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About the author (2005)

John Emsley won the Science Book prize in 1995 for his Consumer's Good Chemical Guide, and followed this with a series of popular science books: Molecules at an Exhibition, Was it Something You Ate? (co-authored with P. Fell), The Shocking History of Phosphorus, and Nature's Building Blocks,all of which have been translated into many other languages. After 20 years as a researcher and lecturer in chemistry at London University, he became a freelance writer, as well as Science Writer in Residence, first at Imperial College London and then at Cambridge University. In 2003 he was awardedthe German Chemical Society's Writer's Award. His latest publication, Vanity, Vitality, and Virility, published in April 2004 (OUP).

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