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Chemistry In Print Essay

1065 words - 5 pages

The 13th Element: The Sordid Tale of Murder, Fire, and Phosphorus is by John Emsley. It was published on April 1st, 2006 by the Turner Publishing Company. This book has one edition, and contains three hundred and fifty two pages. This book’s genre is nonfiction and it shows the role that phosphorus plays in history.
In fourteen chapters, Emsley shows 300 years of history on the element Phosphorus. Phosphorus’s name comes from the Greek words phôs (light) and phoros (bearer). This book emphasizes weird and unusual events that occur which involve the element phosphorus. He starts off his story with Hamburg alchemist Hennig Brandt and his experiment where he isolated of phosphorus from ...view middle of the document...

After the suffering of many, the use of white phosphorus in match-making was made illegal due to the Berne Convention of 1906, which was signed by all nations except the United States. In Great Britain, Parliament passed a law in 1908 that made phosphorus matches illegal after 1910. Emsley also talks about matches that were not created with phosphorus, which was first manufactured by English surgeon and pharmacist John Walker in 1827.
In another chapter Emsley explains the devastations that civilians were faced with during World War II, when destructions of cities occurred due to phosphorus bombs. An example is when he writes down day by day the dangerous bombing of Germany’s second largest city and largest seaport. He shows to us that the Allies’ raid resulted in the death of at least 37,000 people and the massive damage on large amounts of property Though it is not likely that a phosphorus bomb is to drop again, Emsley states that “no other substance can produce the dense smoke of phosphorus pentoxide” and “ phosphorus will continue to be part of the armory of all armed forces in the foreseeable future.” Emsley believes that phosphorus will still be used for weaponry by armies in the future.
In another chapter Emsley talks about the development of nerve gases, which are one of the most deadly poisons. These include sarin, soman, tabun, and “the ultimate nerve gas” VX and their antidotes. He also talks about organophosphate insecticides. In the chapter “Murder” he talks about a couple famous cases which regard poison, most of which were done by spouses and within Britain, while in the chapter, “Fortunes from Phosphorus,” he describes its production from the 18th to the 20th century. Later on, its peaceful use in making phosphates for detergents allowed its production to skyrocket, and more than a million tons were created per year.
In the final chapter Emsley talks about cases of spontaneous human combustion, which he considers to be a myth. After going through all the chapters, Emsley provides to the reader a four-page summary of the entire book, which helps review the information which he has presented in the...

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