Mauve-lous. (8 pages color illustrations, not seen)




The life, times, and enduring influence of pioneering chemist Sir William Perkin, who at 18 discovered a substance that yielded a most lovely color.

Garfield (The End of Innocence, not reviewed) has fashioned a stylish compound of biography, cultural and scientific history, and literary detection. He begins in 1906 with Perkin, now 68, attending celebrations in the US for the jubilee of his 1856 discovery of mauve, the serendipitous consequence of his unsuccessful attempt to synthesize quinine. The scientists who gathered to honor him all wore bow ties dyed mauve for the occasion. Garfield first whisks us to the London neighborhood of Shadwell, where Perkin was born (and where virtually nothing remains from his day), and then farther into the past. Perkin’s grandfather had been an alchemist, and young William, a bright, industrious student with his grandfather’s interests, attended lectures by Michael Faraday and pursued a course of study in the tiny Royal College of Chemistry. Soon, he was working as an assistant to the influential Professor August Wilhelm von Hoffman. An amateur painter, Perkin was prepared to see value in the color of his failed experiment, but his subsequent audacity astonishes. While still a teenager, he decided to approach dyers with his discovery and, after some initial resistance, succeeded so grandly that he was able to leave his formal chemical studies and convince his family to join him in the dyeing business, an enterprise that enriched them all—especially after Queen Victoria wore mauve to her daughter’s wedding. The Perkins eventually sold their business (the Germans were dominating the market), and Perkin himself spent the rest of his life conducting private research and supporting philanthropic causes. Garfield leaps gracefully back and forth in time, as comfortable in the Victorian past and he is in the brave new world of petrochemicals and biochemistry. And for dessert—a recipe for the pudding served at the 1906 honorary banquet.

Mauve-lous. (8 pages color illustrations, not seen)

Pub Date: April 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-393-02005-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2001

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Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science...


Bryson (I'm a Stranger Here Myself, 1999, etc.), a man who knows how to track down an explanation and make it confess, asks the hard questions of science—e.g., how did things get to be the way they are?—and, when possible, provides answers.

As he once went about making English intelligible, Bryson now attempts the same with the great moments of science, both the ideas themselves and their genesis, to resounding success. Piqued by his own ignorance on these matters, he’s egged on even more so by the people who’ve figured out—or think they’ve figured out—such things as what is in the center of the Earth. So he goes exploring, in the library and in company with scientists at work today, to get a grip on a range of topics from subatomic particles to cosmology. The aim is to deliver reports on these subjects in terms anyone can understand, and for the most part, it works. The most difficult is the nonintuitive material—time as part of space, say, or proteins inventing themselves spontaneously, without direction—and the quantum leaps unusual minds have made: as J.B.S. Haldane once put it, “The universe is not only queerer than we suppose; it is queerer than we can suppose.” Mostly, though, Bryson renders clear the evolution of continental drift, atomic structure, singularity, the extinction of the dinosaur, and a mighty host of other subjects in self-contained chapters that can be taken at a bite, rather than read wholesale. He delivers the human-interest angle on the scientists, and he keeps the reader laughing and willing to forge ahead, even over their heads: the human body, for instance, harboring enough energy “to explode with the force of thirty very large hydrogen bombs, assuming you knew how to liberate it and really wished to make a point.”

Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science into perspective.

Pub Date: May 6, 2003

ISBN: 0-7679-0817-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Broadway

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2003

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A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

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A collection of articulate, forceful speeches made from September 2018 to September 2019 by the Swedish climate activist who was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Speaking in such venues as the European and British Parliaments, the French National Assembly, the Austrian World Summit, and the U.N. General Assembly, Thunberg has always been refreshingly—and necessarily—blunt in her demands for action from world leaders who refuse to address climate change. With clarity and unbridled passion, she presents her message that climate change is an emergency that must be addressed immediately, and she fills her speeches with punchy sound bites delivered in her characteristic pull-no-punches style: “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.” In speech after speech, to persuade her listeners, she cites uncomfortable, even alarming statistics about global temperature rise and carbon dioxide emissions. Although this inevitably makes the text rather repetitive, the repetition itself has an impact, driving home her point so that no one can fail to understand its importance. Thunberg varies her style for different audiences. Sometimes it is the rousing “our house is on fire” approach; other times she speaks more quietly about herself and her hopes and her dreams. When addressing the U.S. Congress, she knowingly calls to mind the words and deeds of Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy. The last speech in the book ends on a note that is both challenging and upbeat: “We are the change and change is coming.” The edition published in Britain earlier this year contained 11 speeches; this updated edition has 16, all worth reading.

A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

Pub Date: Nov. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-14-313356-8

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2019

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