Prometheans in the Lab: Chemistry and the Making of the Modern World

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9780071407953: Prometheans in the Lab: Chemistry and the Making of the Modern World

Newton, Darwin, Pasteur, Einstein and other great physicists and biologists are household names, but the great chemists have received little recognition. Yet it could be argued that chemistry, more than any other scientific discipline, has made the modern world possible, largely through products that we take for granted. In the style of the biology classic, The Microbe Hunters, acclaimed science writer Sharon Bertsch McGrayne tells the history of the chemical revolution through the lives of the men who created it. We don't recognize their names, but their legacy is all around us. Before Nicholas LeBlanc discovered the chemical process for making washing soda in the early 1800s, soap was a highly taxed luxury item, and now it's something we use many times everyday without a second thought. Without chemical fertilizer there might have been worldwide starvation in the mid 1900s. Even something as simple as affordable dyes, which brought bright colorful clothing to the masses and democratized fashion, is given full attention. An even-handed account, Prometheans in the Lab describes not only the upside of each pivotal discovery, but also the oftentimes devastating unforeseen effects they wrought on the environment and public health.

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Review:

"I highly recommend this thoughtful and thought-provoking book... McGrayne successfully demonstrates that chemistry and the use of chemical technology in our lives is a human endeavor, neither good nor evil, just human." - Chemical and Engineering News; "...a compelling read" -Nature

From the Back Cover:

The History of the Chemical Revolution and How it Has Shaped Our World



"Chemistry's relationship with the public is unique ... Chemistry's products become part of our everyday lives and are profoundly intertwined with society's tastes, needs, and desires...."



Leblanc, Perkin, Rillieux they aren't household names of science, yet they are some of the chemists responsible for products that make our lives easier, cleaner, and sweeter. Soap, sugar, colorful dyes, clean water, safe refrigeration, and powerful cars they're taken for granted, yet behind every chemical product is the story of a scientist and a breakthrough discovery.



Acclaimed science writer Sharon Bertsch McGrayne depicts this chemical revolution through the lives of its creators. Prometheans in the Lab takes the reader on a whirlwind tour of history through epidemics, wars, scandal, moral dilemmas, and personal tragedies as McGrayne explores the upside of each pivotal discovery, and also its sometimes devastating effects on the environment and public health. It is an enlightening account of chemical discoveries, the people who discovered them, and how they shaped the modern world for better...and for worse.



"...these are the dramatic stories of bold chemists who irrevocably changed our lives. They are indeed Prometheans who made our modern world."



Sharon Bertsch McGrayne is a science writer and award-winning journalist. She has been a reporter for Scripps-Howard, Crain's, Gannett, and other newspapers covering education, politics, science, and health issues. She is a former science editor and writer for Encyclopaedia Britannica and the author of several books, including Nobel Prize Women in Science.

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