The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements

The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements

Why did Gandhi hate iodine (I, 53)? Why did the Japanese kill Godzilla with missiles made of cadmium (Cd, 48)? How did radium (Ra, 88) nearly ruin Marie Curie's reputation? And why did tellurium (Te, 52) lead to the most bizarre gold rush in history?

The periodic table is one of our crowning scientific achievements, but it's also a treasure trove of passion, adventure, betrayal and obsession. The fascinating tales in The Disappearing Spoon follow carbon, neon, silicon, gold and every single element on the table as they play out their parts in human history, finance, mythology, conflict, the arts, medicine and the lives of the (frequently) mad scientists who discovered them.

Why did a little lithium (Li, 3) help cure poet Robert Lowell of his madness? And how did gallium (Ga, 31) become the go-to element for laboratory pranksters? The Disappearing Spoon has the answers, fusing science with the classic lore of invention, investigation, discovery and alchemy, from the big bang through to the end of time.

Title:The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements
Edition Language:English
ISBN:9780316051644
Format Type:

About Sam Kean

Sam Kean is a writer in Washington, D.C. His work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Mental Floss, Slate, The Believer, Air & Space, Science, and The New Scientist. He is currently working as a reporter at Science magazine and as a 2009 Middlebury Environmental Journalism fellow.


    The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements Reviews

  • Jason

    Stop the search. Recall the teams. I have found the non-fiction, summer read of 2010! The Disappearing Spoon.First, what’s a summer read, Mr. Josey Wales thumbnail photo? A summer read is one you ca...

  • Paul Bryant

    My GR friend Jason writes sturdy and trustworthy reviews, but I must take exception with him here :The Disappearing Spoon is quick, light reading out in the sun. It handles complex theory in a comfort...

  • Kate

    Okay. Let me tell it to you honestly.This book is not the most well written book - the sentences are clunky and there is not a clear narrative. It is much more of a rambling collection of stories and ...

  • Mackey

    This is on the banned book list - why!? Oh that's right. Certain parents think that science is too "real" for their precious babies. What a lot of baloney! The Disappearing Spoon is, quite literally, ...

  • Lisa Vegan

    This is an absolutely brilliant idea for a book and it’s a superb book. It’s beautifully organized and well written. It’s a wonderful way to learn and/or deepen knowledge of chemistry. This book...

  • K

    There's a certain type of goodreads troll -- the one who defends their beloved book by saying something like, "Well, if you knew the topic didn't interest you why were you stupid enough to pick up the...

  • Valerie

    This does for the periodic table what I am always trying to do for math....link the science to the historical events, the people, and the economics that push scientific discoveries. I was fascinated b...

  • Emily

    This book took me 76 days, or almost three months, to read. In this case, I needed all seventy-six individual days to work my brain through passages like this one: For instance, thirteen aluminium ato...

  • rmn

    I should have liked this book more and I can't really explain why I didn't. It's not poorly written (though it ain't Solzhenitsyn) and it's not that uninteresting of a topic, but I just found that aft...

  • Amanda

    I'm going to have to stop saying that I don't like non fiction. This is the 3rd "science ish" book I have enjoyed recently. This was an interesting look at history as told thru the periodic table. I c...