Napoleon's Buttons: How 17 Molecules Changed History

Registered by winghyphen8wing of Honolulu, Hawaii USA on 3/14/2017
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This book is in a Controlled Release! This book is in a Controlled Release!
4 journalers for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by winghyphen8wing from Honolulu, Hawaii USA on Tuesday, March 14, 2017
This is not an ordinary book: it's a BookCrossing book! BookCrossing books are world travelers - they like to have adventures and make new friends...and every once in a while they even write home to say what they've been doing.

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Trade paperback from the Friends of the Library: I finally got around to reading it, thanks in part to an e-book version borrowed from the library. (Larger photo here - after following link, click on image to zoom.)

The authors cheat a bit, since many of the "molecules" are types of molecules rather than specific compounds, but it's an interesting look at a lot of stuff most of us don't spend a lot of time thinking about as things (dyes, sugars, antibiotics, hallucinogens, spices) - we tend to focus more on the things they do.

In this book the authors look at the molecular structures, history, and cultural effects of all sorts of things: they're both chemists, so it can get a bit science-y in spots, but I managed even though organic chemistry was not my friend. :p

I do love the button theory of why Napoleon's invasion of Russia failed...

Journal Entry 2 by winghyphen8wing at Honolulu, Hawaii USA on Friday, June 09, 2017

Released 2 yrs ago (6/8/2017 UTC) at Honolulu, Hawaii USA


Thursday, June 8, 2017: headed out in the always-interesting Biographies of Things box.

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Journal Entry 3 by rhythmbiscuit at Northglenn, Colorado USA on Wednesday, July 19, 2017
I selected this book out of the Biographies of Things bookbox. It looks interesting! I don't think I've ever thought about molecules and how they've affected history.

Journal Entry 4 by rhythmbiscuit at Northglenn, Colorado USA on Wednesday, August 01, 2018
I found this book very interesting. I have to say that I didn't pay much attention to the chemical diagrams, but I did appreciate the authors' explanations of the molecules' structure and the similarities among related molecules in the chapter.

My favorite chapter was "Molecules of Witchcraft," especially since one of my ancestors was accused of witchcraft in Salem. Overall, I learned some fascinating things about the historical role of various compounds.

I'm reserving this book to put back in the Biographies of Things bookbox.

Journal Entry 5 by rhythmbiscuit at Northglenn, Colorado USA on Friday, October 05, 2018

Released 9 mos ago (10/5/2018 UTC) at Northglenn, Colorado USA


I included this book in the Biographies of Things bookbox. Enjoy!

Journal Entry 6 by wing6of8wing at Silver Spring, Maryland USA on Saturday, November 03, 2018
This book came home in the Biographies of Things book box. Looks intriguing -- although I think I might be as interested in Napoleon's actual buttons as in molecules.

ETA: Just noticed that this book was on MaryZee's wishlist when she passed. Appropriate that it ended up in her book box.

Journal Entry 7 by wing6of8wing at -- Bookbox, -- By post or by hand/ in person -- USA on Friday, May 10, 2019

Released 2 mos ago (5/10/2019 UTC) at -- Bookbox, -- By post or by hand/ in person -- USA


This book is on the road again as part of the Biographies of Things book box started by MaryZee and continued in her memory.

Any future reader or recipient of this book is encouraged to leave a journal entry here on the BookCrossing site to let prior readers know the fate of the book. You can make an anonymous entry without joining the BookCrossing movement, but if you are interested in joining, it is a free and spam-free community where your contact information is not shared with others. Best of all, members receive private messages via e-mail from books like this one when those books are journaled, allowing for long-term relationships between books and readers.

Journal Entry 8 by wingGoryDetailswing at Nashua, New Hampshire USA on Wednesday, May 22, 2019
I'm claiming this from the Biographies of Things bookbox. This looks fascinating; I love it when an author takes a single, unassuming item, and parlays it into a discussion of far-ranging historical connections!

Journal Entry 9 by wingGoryDetailswing at Nashua, New Hampshire USA on Friday, July 05, 2019
OK, so the book wasn't about a single item after all - but I still enjoyed the many and varied "molecules that changed history", even if the didn't all come from those blasted buttons {wry grin}. Some chapters were more familiar to me than others - for example, the one on "Dyes" covered material that I'd read in several excellent books, including Color: A Natural History of the Palette, Mauve: How One Man Invented a Color that Changed the World, and A Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage, and the Quest for the Color of Desire . Others touched on newer-to-me topics, from the fascinating comparison of the essential compounds of cloves, nutmeg, and ginger to the chapter on cellulose, with the impressive variety of structural polysaccharides. I couldn't always follow the organic-chemistry details, but in some cases the diagrams of the molecules were spectacular in themselves, such as the pleated-sheet structure of silk.

I also enjoyed the anecdote about Leo Baekeland, who developed a synthetic plastic that he used for photographic paper. He offered his new invention to George Eastman, founder of Eastman Kodak, planning to ask a hesitant $50,000 (and to accept half that) - only to have Eastman offer him $750,000 outright! So many inventors got stiffed in the marketplace one way or another that it was wonderful to see one getting full recognition of his work by a savvy businessman...

And there were lots more interesting tidbits here, from The Pill to nicotine and caffeine (and morphine, for a triumvirate of mood-altering chemicals) to oleic acid (from olive oil).

Journal Entry 10 by wingGoryDetailswing at Nashua, New Hampshire USA on Sunday, July 07, 2019

Released 1 wk ago (7/8/2019 UTC) at Nashua, New Hampshire USA


I'm adding this to the Science and Technology bookbox, which will be on its way again soon. Hope someone enjoys the book!

*** Released for the 2019 Keep Them Moving release challenge. ***

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