Antimony, Gold, and Jupiter’s Wolf By Peter Wothers

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Antimony, Gold, and Jupiter’s Wolf: How the Elements Were Named By Peter Wothers

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Book/Novel Author: Peter Wothers

Book/Novel Title: Antimony, Gold, and Jupiter’s Wolf




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Summary

The iconic Periodic Table of the Elements is now in its most satisfyingly elegant form. This is because all the ‘gaps’ corresponding to missing elements in the seventh row, or period, have recently been filled and the elements named. But where do these names come from? For some, usually the most recent, the origins are quite obvious, but in others – even well-known elements such as oxygen or nitrogen – the roots are less clear.
Here, Peter Wothers explores the fascinating and often surprising stories behind how the chemical elements received their names. Delving back in time to explore the history and gradual development of chemistry, he sifts through medieval manuscripts for clues to the stories surrounding the discovery of the elements, showing how they were first encountered or created, and how they were used in everyday lives. As he reveals, the oldest-known elements were often associated with astronomical
bodies, and connections with the heavens influenced the naming of a number of elements. Following this, a number of elements, including hydrogen and oxygen, were named during the great reform of chemistry, set amidst the French Revolution. While some of the origins of the names were controversial (and
indeed incorrect – some saying, for instance, that oxygen might be literally taken to mean ‘the son of a vinegar merchant’), they have nonetheless influenced language used around the world to this very day. Throughout, Wothers delights in dusting off the original sources, and bringing to light the astonishing, the unusual, and the downright weird origins behind the names of the elements so familiar to us today. **
### Review
“Thorough and well-researched exploration of how the elements were named … Readers even casually interested in the history of chemistry would do well to pick up this energetic survey.” — Publishers Weekly
“Such a book could only have been written by an academic deeply learned and passionate about chemistry … it is also the kind of book whose title might pique someone’s interest in a bookshop and inspire a lifelong passion for chemistry and its history … it seems worth celebrating that some academics are still producing books so curious, wide-ranging and enthusiastic.” — Matthew Reisz, The Times Higher Education Supplement
“[An] erudite, complex, but always enjoyably unbuttoned account of how the elements acquired their names. A charming way to convey the history of this science.” — New Scientist
“This erudite yet accessible and entertaining account describes the challenges, confusions, illuminations, and jealousies involved in the naming of the underlying fabric of the everyday world. Anyone who enjoys the practice of science will be enriched by what they will read here.” — Peter Atkins, University of Oxford
“Everything is here: from making phosphorus out of faeces all the way to superheavy elements, illuminated by a delightful combination of chemical insight and historical knowledge.” — Martyn Poliakoff
### About the Author
**Dr Peter Wothers** is a Teaching Fellow in the Department of Chemistry, University of Cambridge, and a Fellow and Director of Studies in Chemistry at St Catharine’s College. He is heavily involved in promoting chemistry to young students and members of the public, and, in 2010, created the popular Cambridge Chemistry Challenge competition for students in the UK. Peter is known nationally and internationally for his demonstration lectures and presented the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures, titled *The Modern Alchemist* , in 2012. He has also authored a number of popular textbooks, including *Why Chemical Reactions Happen* and *Chemical Structure and Reactivity* , with colleague James Keeler. In 2014, he was awarded an M.B.E. for Services to Chemistry in the Queen’s Birthday Honours.




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