“Crucibles: The Story of Chemistry,” by Bernard Jaffe is a nonfiction science book utterly unlike thousands of others — at once dramatic, personal and educational, too.
The book opens in the early years of the 15th century, with the story of Bernard Trevisan, a wealthy heir who surrounded himself for decades with alchemy and a golden dream, only to die unsuccessful, bitter and poor.
From there, the life stories of more than 20 other scientists, scattered throughout the centuries from the 1400s through World War II, are told. Here one can find the dynamic personalities of Lavoisier, Dalton and Avogadro, Woehler, Mendeleev and Bohr. They studied everything from alchemy to the periodic table to the world of the atom and the atomic bomb.
Amongst these colorful characters, there was never a boring moment, even outside the laboratory.
Take for example Henry Moseley, nicknamed “Harry.” As an energetic and remarkably fearless young man, Harry revolutionized the periodic table before being shot through the head in the trenches of World War I only two months later. As soon as his career began, Moseley was gone.