John Browne, the former head of BP, attempts to illustrate the path of human progress in Seven Elements That Have Changed the World.
John Browne is of more than elementary interest
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.