The History Of Molecules

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Chemistry is a branch of natural science that deals principally with the properties of substances, the changes they undergo, and the natural laws that describe these changes. (University of Idaho, 2014) Molecules, as small as they seem, is in the food that we eat and present in our daily lives. Today, scientists would likely know about the history of chemistry but not how chemistry has impacted history. Many would not wonder if these molecules go beyond the chemistry concepts that they have learned. For example, would the world have been different if piperine (molecule) present in pepper had not led to the discovery of the United States? The interesting fact is that molecules have and will continue to shape the world today. In this book, the authors explain in detail how 17 specific molecules had a significant impact on the history of the world. On a whole, this book is very intriguing and very suitable for chemistry lovers as well as the general public.

This book, ‘Napoleon’s buttons’, is written by Penny Le Couteur and Jay Burreson (2003). The book is divided into 17 organized chapters and is based on three major themes, namely medicine, trade and conquest. Molecules that encouraged the discovery of new trade routes include peppers, nutmeg, and cloves, glucose, silk and nylon, morphine, nicotine, and caffeine, salt and dyes. Molecules which have led to battles and wars include ascorbic acid, cellulose, nitro compounds, molecules of witchcraft and isoprene. Molecules which had an important role in the field of medicine include phenol, wonder drugs, the pill, oleic acid, chlorocarbon compounds and molecules versus malaria.

The authors’ evaluation on some history events linked to the molecules were rather shallow. In some chapter...

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... interesting read is also the visuals of chemical compounds for the reader to see the actual chemical bonds within the chemical compound. The pictures engage the reader and allow one to have a clearer visual perspective of what is being discussed. Overall, the flow of the book from chapter to chapter was good and well thought.

The chemistry aspects provided in the book was very detailed but there were some information lacking in the historical aspects of the book. The authors’ were also quick to conclude on how certain molecules were the sole factor responsible for the historical events. Although there are flaws in the book, this book is still an interesting read. The book is strongly recommended to the general public as it is able to provide to them a basic general understanding of chemistry and allows them to gain new knowledge and great insights into chemistry.

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