Of the 90 chemical elements that occur in nature, only a dozen are found in easily measurable amounts in the human body. The rest are trace elements, present at such low concentrations that most of them were, until quite recently, beyond the reach of detection. The Crumbs of Creation reviews the absorbing story of trace elements in medicine, history, industry, crime, and folklore, showing how the study of their properties can help us survive through a better understanding and control of our environment. Written in an easy-to-read, entertaining style, the book consists of interrelated anecdotes grouped together in relevant chapters. Although readers will derive much entertainment from this book, there is an underlying seriousness to the topics.
"Lots of fun, cautionary warnings, and a good read."
"The text, well written in a popular-science style, strings together related anecdotes and facts … The Crumbs of Creation is warmly recommended."
-David Ferguson, Medical Journal of Australia
Introduction: In which we learn what Mr Gladstone said in 1876 (and what Voltaire said in 1770), identify some trace elements, classify the environments and discover a harmless by-product of the atomic bomb project. Hair and history: In which we study the case of the severed head, the mystery of the missing Duchess and ask:. Was Robert Burns a martyr to drink or to medicine? . Was Napoleon poisoned? . Was Isaac Newton mad? . Was King Charles killed by chemistry? With reflections on the value of hair as a mirror on the environment. All flesh is grass: In which Isaiah's aphorism is developed to illuminate significant differences in chemical composition between living and inanimate matter: with reflections on the siege of Shipham, the legacy of Chernobyl, oil spillage, water and health, the search for gold, atmospheric pollution, the fate of the ozone layer and the mysterious disappearance of the dinosaurs. The inner man: In which we learn how to recognise an essential element and how to discover how much is enough. With accounts of: . The Iron Duke's appraisal of tinned beef. . The case of the Persian dwarfs. . The perilous froth on Canadian beer. . Marco Polo's discovery of the loco-weed. Mercury and Venus: In which we meet the quicksilver doctor, the trembling dentist, the barefoot nurse, the King who pulled his subject's teeth - and find syphilis in a nursery rhyme. Our daily lead: In which we speculate on the fall of Rome, the West Indian dry gripes, the moonshiner's colic, the potter's pint - and reflect on the hazards to health associated with the presence of lead in water, air, food and drink. Death in the pot: In which we study the case of the poisoned beer, uncover the secret of the Borgias, identify the succession powder, demolish a preposterous myth and learn much more of the strange history of arsenic. The chemist in the witness box: In which we ask: who killed the Field Marshall - and learn of a murder in the Arctic, the exploits of the Black Widow, the death of a President, the detection of counterfeit Scotch and the discovery of Drake's plate. Postscript: Sweeping up the crumbs: In which we reflect on the significance of trace elements in illuminating sundry aspects of the creator's strategy. Appendix. Further reading