Seven Elements That Have Changed the World
Just about every kind of author seems to have had a go at the all-encompassing science book, whether it’s university professors and science educators such as Jim Al Khalili, humour writers such as Bill Bryson or even a TV comedian (and Cambridge physics PhD dropout) such as Ben Miller.
Now it’s the business guru and former head of BP John Browne’s turn, using seven elements – iron, carbon, gold, silver, uranium, titanium and silicon – to illustrate the path of human progress, with all the twists and turns implicit in that journey.
One primary difference between previous efforts in this genre is that Browne recruited a researcher for a year to do the legwork for him, allowing him to devote his energy to weaving together disparate technical strands and his own personal reminiscences into a cohesive narrative. This could easily have been a half-baked mishmash, but Browne, a trained engineer who grew up in an expatriate oil-industry family, has a sufficient breadth of intellect and interest to make it work.