Neptune's Gift: A History of Common Salt (Johns Hopkins Studies in the History of Technology)

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9780801819551: Neptune's Gift: A History of Common Salt (Johns Hopkins Studies in the History of Technology)

Common salt--a substance seemingly too ordinary to think about, yet it is the oldest of our raw materials and the basis of some of our newest inventions. Mythology and folklore abound in stories and proverbs about salt. It has been a source of revenue to governments from ancient China to ancien regime France to the United States. The search for this commodity ushered in the age of petroleum fuels.

In the first comprehensive history of salt, Robert P. Multhauf deals with its production, uses, and role in the development of modern society. Today, only about two percent of the salt produced is for human and animal consumption. Ten times as much is used in the winter salting of roads, and about half of today's enormous production is used in the chemical industries, for the production, among other things, of herbicides, pesticides, and other environment-threatening materials.

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Review:

Smithsonian Institution historian of science Robert P. Multhauf ponders the significance of sodium chloride, "the universal necessity," and its role in human affairs. Wars have been fought and empires founded and lost over salt; it was once among the rarest of elements and the subject of government monopolies and strict security. Today, Multhauf writes in this fascinating and detail-laden book, salt is so abundant that we tend not to think about it except to remind ourselves to cut back on its use. Multhauf restores salt to its real importance, and he does a fine job of tracing salt's fortunes through time.

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In the first comprehensive history of salt, Multhauf deals with its production, uses, and role in the development of modern society.

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Published by The Johns Hopkins University P (1978)
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Published by The Johns Hopkins University Press (1978)
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