The Elements of Murder: A History of Poison

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9780192806000: The Elements of Murder: A History of Poison

Was Napoleon killed by the arsenic in his wallpaper? How did Rasputin survive cyanide poisoning? Which chemicals in our environment pose the biggest threat to our health today? In The Elements of Murder, John Emsley answers these questions and offers a fascinating account of five of the most toxic elements-arsenic, antimony, lead, mercury, and thallium-describing their lethal chemical properties and highlighting their use in some of the most famous murder cases in history.
In this exciting book, we meet a who's who of heartless murderers. Mary Ann Cotton, who used arsenic to murder her mother, three husbands, a lover, eight of her own children, and seven step children; Michael Swango, who may have killed as many as 60 of his patients and several of his colleagues during the 20 years he practiced as a doctor and paramedic; and even Saddam Hussein, who used thallium sulfate to poison his political rivals. Emsley also shows which toxic elements may have been behind the madness of King George III, the delusions of Isaac Newton, and the strange death of King Charles II. In addition, the book examines many modern day environmental catastrophes, including accidental mass poisonings from lead and arsenic, and the Minamata Bay disaster in Japan.
Written by a leading science writer, famous for his knowledge of the elements and their curious and colorful histories, The Elements of Murder offers an enticing combination of true crime tales and curious science that adds up to an addictive read.

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About the Author:


John Emsley is Science Writer in Residence in the Chemistry Department at the University of Cambridge. He wrote a "Molecule of the Month" column for the Independent for many years, received a Glaxo award for science writing and the Chemical Industries Association's President's Award for science communication. His books include Molecules in an Exhibition, Nature's Building Blocks, and Vanity, Vitality, and Virility: The Science Behind the Products You Love to Buy.

Review:


"A delightful potion of chemical erudition, forgotten science history and ghastly murder schemes.... Reading The Elements of Murder is like watching a hundred episodes of CSI, but without having to sit through the tedious personal relationships of the characters.... Along the way the bodies pile up as Emsley relates spectacular case histories of poisonings, accidental and criminal.... Emsley mines what he calls 'the darker side of the periodic table' with consumate skill."--Dick Teresi, The New York Times Book Review


"A fascinating anecdotal history of killing by five elements--mercury, arsenic, antimony, lead and thalium.... With something of interest on almost every page, it combines the satisfactions of a detective story, intriguing snippets of history, popular science, unsolved mysteries and murder. A powerful brew." --P. D. James, Sunday Telegraph


"Emsley captures the creepy common ground of science and homicide.... Beyond the scandals and celebrities, what makes 'The Elements of Murder' such a charming read is the absurdity of its anecdotes.... Hitchcock could make many films from this book."--Brenn Jones, San Francisco Chronicle


"Fascinating, wide-ranging and, let's not mince words, macabre new history of poison.... A truly guilty pleasure."--Wall Street Journal


"The list of the famous who may have been poisoned by one of these devious toxins is a long one, from Pope Clement II to Mozart. Emsley has dug up the dirt on these and a rogue's gallery of lesser-known cases.... If the golden age of poisoning is gone (replaced, to be sure, by other forms of mayhem), in Emsley's book it's still very much alive."--Laurence A. Marschall, Natural History


"Emsley retells enough juicy and lurid (and sometimes famous) stories of murder by poison to enthrall both true-crime fans and budding mystery writers.... The author certainly knows his stuff."--Booklist


"Emsley hits a bull's eye in this fascinating, wonderfully readable forensic history of five deadly chemicals (mercury, arsenic, antimony, lead and thallium) and their starring role in that most intoxicating drama of pure evil: murder. A deeply knowledgeable chemist with a gift for making accessible the dry and bewilderingly arcane, Emsley's at his best in case studies of infamous poisoners and their victims."--Publishers Weekly (starred review)


"I heartily recommend that this book be read and added to the library of every chemist, toxicologist, and avid crime fiction reader, wherever they may be around the world. This book is an absolute delight and, for the price, a bargain to boot."--Chemical and Engineering News


"Both as a natural history of poisons and as a near-encyclopedic who-used-what-how reference, the book fascinates. The glossary and bibliography are most helpful. So dangerous is the world that many readers will choose to stay home, working on that special sauce for mother-in-laws meat loaf."--Foreword Magazine


"This absorbing volume is equal parts chemistry, history and mystery, but you don't need to be a scientist, historian or murderer to appreciate all three facets."--BookPage (Beach Reading Selection)


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Book Description Oxford University Press, United Kingdom, 2006. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. This book is about elements that kill. Mercury, arsenic, antimony, lead, and thallium can be lethal, as many a poisoner knew too well. Emsley explores the gruesome history of these elements and those who have succumbed to them in a fascinating narrative that weaves together stories of true crime, enduring historical mysteries, tragic accidents, and the science behind it all. The colourful cast includes ancient alchemists, kings, leaders, a pope, several great musicians, and a motley crew of murderers. Among the intriguing accounts is that of the 17th century poet Sir Thomas Overbury, who survived four attempts to poison him with mercury but died when given the poison in enema form - under whose direction remains uncertain. Here, too, is detailed the celebrated case of Florence Maybrick, convicted of poisoning her violent husband James with arsenic, but widely believed at the time to be innocent. The question of her guilt is still disputed. Threaded through the book alongside the history is the growing understanding of chemistry, and the effects of different chemical substances on the human body. Thousands suffered the ill effects of poisonous vapours from mercury, lead, and arsenic before the dangers were realized. Hatters went mad because of mercury poisoning, and hundreds of young girls working in factories manufacturing wallpaper in the 19th century were poisoned by the arsenic-based green pigments used for the leaves of the popular floral designs. Even in the middle of the 20th century, accidental mercury poisoning caused many deaths in Minamata Bay, while leaded petrol poisoned the whole planet, and arsenic still continues to poison millions is Asia. Through vividly told stories of innocent blunders, industrial accidents, poisoners of various hues - cold, cunning, desperate - and deaths that remain a mystery, Emsley here uncovers the dark side of the Periodic Table. Bookseller Inventory # AOP9780192806000

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Book Description Oxford University Press, United Kingdom, 2006. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. This book is about elements that kill. Mercury, arsenic, antimony, lead, and thallium can be lethal, as many a poisoner knew too well. Emsley explores the gruesome history of these elements and those who have succumbed to them in a fascinating narrative that weaves together stories of true crime, enduring historical mysteries, tragic accidents, and the science behind it all. The colourful cast includes ancient alchemists, kings, leaders, a pope, several great musicians, and a motley crew of murderers. Among the intriguing accounts is that of the 17th century poet Sir Thomas Overbury, who survived four attempts to poison him with mercury but died when given the poison in enema form - under whose direction remains uncertain. Here, too, is detailed the celebrated case of Florence Maybrick, convicted of poisoning her violent husband James with arsenic, but widely believed at the time to be innocent. The question of her guilt is still disputed. Threaded through the book alongside the history is the growing understanding of chemistry, and the effects of different chemical substances on the human body. Thousands suffered the ill effects of poisonous vapours from mercury, lead, and arsenic before the dangers were realized. Hatters went mad because of mercury poisoning, and hundreds of young girls working in factories manufacturing wallpaper in the 19th century were poisoned by the arsenic-based green pigments used for the leaves of the popular floral designs. Even in the middle of the 20th century, accidental mercury poisoning caused many deaths in Minamata Bay, while leaded petrol poisoned the whole planet, and arsenic still continues to poison millions is Asia. Through vividly told stories of innocent blunders, industrial accidents, poisoners of various hues - cold, cunning, desperate - and deaths that remain a mystery, Emsley here uncovers the dark side of the Periodic Table. Bookseller Inventory # AOP9780192806000

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Book Description Oxford University Press, 2006. Book Condition: New. 2006. New Ed. Paperback. What killed Charles II? Who thought he had discovered the perfect poison? Why did hatters go mad? This is an account of murderous chemical elements. Through stories of innocent blunders, poisoners of various hues - cold, cunning, desperate - and deaths that remain a mystery, it uncovers the dark side of the Periodic Table. Num Pages: 432 pages, illustrations. BIC Classification: JKVF1; PDZ; PSB; TDC; VFD. Category: (P) Professional & Vocational. Dimension: 195 x 130 x 27. Weight in Grams: 318. . . . . . . Bookseller Inventory # V9780192806000

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Book Description Oxford University Press. Book Condition: New. 2006. New Ed. Paperback. What killed Charles II? Who thought he had discovered the perfect poison? Why did hatters go mad? This is an account of murderous chemical elements. Through stories of innocent blunders, poisoners of various hues - cold, cunning, desperate - and deaths that remain a mystery, it uncovers the dark side of the Periodic Table. Num Pages: 432 pages, illustrations. BIC Classification: JKVF1; PDZ; PSB; TDC; VFD. Category: (P) Professional & Vocational. Dimension: 195 x 130 x 27. Weight in Grams: 318. . . . . . Books ship from the US and Ireland. Bookseller Inventory # V9780192806000

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