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  • Published: 30 May 2011
  • ISBN: 9780141919263
  • Imprint: Penguin eBooks
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 448

Periodic Tales

The Curious Lives of the Elements

The phenomenal Sunday Times bestseller packed with fascinating stories and unexpected information about the building blocks of our universe

Everything in the universe is made of them, including you.

Like you, the elements have personalities, attitudes, talents, shortcomings, stories rich with meaning.

Here you'll meet iron that rains from the heavens and noble gases that light the way to vice. You'll learn how lead can tell your future while zinc may one day line your coffin. You'll discover what connects the bones in your body with the Whitehouse in Washington, the glow of a streetlamp with the salt on your dinner table.

Unlocking their astonishing secrets and colourful pasts, Periodic Tales is a voyage of wonder and discovery, showing that their stories are our stories, and their lives are inextricable from our own.

  • Published: 30 May 2011
  • ISBN: 9780141919263
  • Imprint: Penguin eBooks
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 448

About the authors

Hugh Aldersley-Williams

Hugh Aldersey-Williams is a writer and curator with interests ranging from science to architecture and design. His prolific career as a freelance journalist included a five-year stint as the design critic of the New Statesman.
He has written a number of books on design, as well as The Most Beautiful Molecule (1994), the story of the Nobel Prize-winning discovery of buckminsterfullerene, a molecular form of the element carbon.
More recently, he is the author of Findings: Hidden Stories in First-Hand Accounts of Scientific Discovery, and the curator of two exhibitions at the Victoria and Albert Museum, Zoomorphic: New Animal Architecture and Touch Me: Design and Sensation.
He lives in Norfolk with his wife, son and two Maine coon cats.

Praise for Periodic Tales

Science writing at its best ... fascinating and beautiful ... if only chemistry had been like this at school ... to meander through the periodic table with him ... is like going round a zoo with Gerald Durrell ... a rich compilation of delicious tales, but it offers greater rewards, too

Matt Ridley

Immensely engaging and continually makes one sit up in ­surprise

Sunday Times

Splendid ... enjoyable and polished


Full of good stories and he knows how to tell them well ... an agreeable jumble of anecdote, reflection and information

Sunday Telegraph

Great fun to read and an endless fund of unlikely and improbable anecdotes ... sharp and often witty

Financial Times

A joyous romp through the chemical elements

Today, BBC Radio 4

Not only a cultural history of the elements, it is also a lament to the loss of science as a hobby


A flashily brainy book, crammed with literary references and held together by a personal quest to collect as many elements as possible


'Elements are fun' is the essential premise of Hugh Aldersey-Williams's new book and by heck he's right ... Aldersey-Williams mourns the fact chemistry isn't really sexy any more; Periodic Tales is a step towards it getting its mojo back

Metro ****

Imaginative and fun ... almost every page yields a nugget


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