The Author –  Theodore Gray

Photographs by Nick Mann

Published on – 2014

Published by – Black Dog & Leventhal 

ISBN 9781579129712

The hundred or so Elements of the Periodic Table, are finite and Molecules are not. There may be only seven different chess pieces but the combinations which can be made on the board by these seven pieces are unlimited. Though there are almost as many categories of Molecules as there are Molecules, that’s why the author Theodore Gray has chosen to write about only the interesting Molecules, the ones that illustrate deeper connections and border concepts that unify them all.

The world of compounds is so wide and diverse that you could make up a large chemistry set focused on even a tiny fraction of it.

If your expectation is a Chemistry Text Book with standard presentation of compounds, this books goes way far beyond that. In its presentation, this is a typical coffee table kind of a book with nice pictures but it had turned out to be a lot more. Supported by Nick Mann’s beautiful photographs, Molecules is a serious attempt to explain the world of chemical compounds to the reader without assuming previous science knowledge.

Gray begins with an explanation of how atoms bond to form molecules and compounds, as well as the difference between organic and inorganic chemistry. He then goes on to explore the vast array of materials molecules can create, including: soaps and solvents; goops and oils; rocks and ores; ropes and fibers; painkillers and dangerous drugs; sweeteners; perfumes and stink bombs; colors and pigments; and controversial compounds. Finally, Gray concludes his commentary on compounds with the most horrible and very bad inorganic compound ever, Asbestos.

Though there is no chapter specially on acids and bases in this book, the first three chapters familiarize the reader with the notions of atoms, elements and chemical structures. The sections ‘compounds’ and ‘molecules’ give simple but meaningful introductions to ionic and covalent bonds. The readers will surely appreciate how Gray has added his personal touch to every segment of text by carefully compiling historic, scientific and other facts into concise, clear and easy to read chunks of knowledge, throughout the book.

Nick Mann, the photographer has done every justice to this book by capturing very clear and striking photographs of the elements and molecules, as well as diagrams of the compounds. He has captured molecules in their various states and their chemical bonds as well. These pictures go wonderfully alongside the chemical structures; which Gray chose to depict with a diffuse glow around the atoms: a reminder that molecules aren’t little balls connected by sticks but rather an assembly of nuclei surrounded by fuzzy electron clouds.

At the designated price, this book is well worth for the money and will make even a fantastic present for a science lover.