Periodic Tales by Hugh Aldersey-Williams

Elements, to most people, mean things like oxygen, gold, iron, tin, stuff like that.  Easily identified, popularly discussed stuff.  We may rarely see them in pure form, but we know they are there.  But there is far more to them than that.

Molybdenum.  Strontium.  The town in Sweden that produced eight hitherto unknown elements from one mine, just lying there.  When aluminum (aluminium? Both are right; the discoverer changed his mind a couple of times, and it could have been alumium) was considered a precious metal, not a throwaway for pop cans and cheap cars.

Periodic Tales tells the human story of the discovery, uses or practical lack thereof, and odd value of nearly all of the elements on the periodic table, and explains why in many cases it took so long for them to prove useful. 

Told in a bunch of thematic sections (money, power, things like that), Aldersey-Williams brings out the untold history of so many elements we might otherwise never think about.

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