FRIDAY, 3 JULY 20202019 was designated as the International Year of the Periodic Table, marking the 150th anniversary of Dmitri Mendeleev’s formulation. Dr. Peter Wothers delights us in ‘Antimony, Gold, and Jupiter’s Wolf: How the Elements were Named’ with a journey through the history of the naming of the elements. Dr. Wothers’ lectures are certainly memorable to many natural scientists who studied chemistry in the first year of the Natural Sciences Tripos, as are his series of 2012 Christmas Lectures at the Royal Institution. However, the ‘modern alchemist’ takes a route away from his successful textbooks with this title, contributing to the world of popular chemistry. Having had the pleasure of discussing Dr. Wothers’ extensive library of old chemistry texts in person on several occasions, it is incredible to see the result of his studies on these works. As well as the comprehensive bibliography owing to books held by Dr. Wothers in St Catharine’s College, links to Cambridge are clear, with the help of many fellows and PhD students acknowledged. Although the naming of elements such as Einsteinium may be obvious, others such as oxygen are less so. This is a book with great charm, which should be read by chemists, historians and non-specialists alike.
By: Gareth Hart