FIRE by Hazel Rossotti


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 An encyclopedic volume on the phenomenon that underlies civilization itself. Rossotti (Chemistry/Oxford) covers every imaginable facet of fire, from specific chemical reactions of various fuels to ways of lighting fires; uses of fires; dangers of fires; and the symbolism and philosophy of fires. We learn about Stone Age oil lamps found in the caves where early humans created the first art works; about the development of heating and cooking stoves from the open fire to the modern range; about Greek Fire, safety matches, napalm, and Thermite; about the properties and applications of different fire extinguishers; about Prometheus and Zoroaster and phlogiston and spontaneous human combustion. There's literally something on almost every aspect of fire one can imagine, with a full list of primary sources included. But this approach has the obvious risk that some readers will find two paragraphs about booby traps, for example, exactly enough, while others will find it far too little--or too much. Of course, for more complex fire-related subjects such as cookery or ceramics, presenting a comprehensive discussion in a few pages is a hopeless task, so in these and other cases, Rossotti wisely sketches just a few basic principles and moves on. A clearly written, often fascinating, and incredibly detailed treatment of a subject that touches everyone's life. (Thirty-two color plates; ninety halftones and line drawings)

Pub Date: May 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-19-855722-1
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Oxford Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1993