Cover image for The 13th element : the sordid tale of murder, fire, and phosphorus
The 13th element : the sordid tale of murder, fire, and phosphorus
Emsley, John.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : John Wiley & Sons, Inc., [2000]

Physical Description:
viii, 327 pages : illustrations ; 21 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
QD181.P1 E447 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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The incredible glowing history of the Devil's element phosphorus
Discovered by alchemists, prescribed by apothecaries, exploited by ninth-century industrialists, and abused by twentieth-century combatants, the chemical element phosphorus has fascinated us for more than three centuries. It may even be the cause of will-o'-the wisps and spontaneous human combustion Now John Emsley has written an enthralling account of this eerily luminescent element. Shining with wonderful nuggets-from murders-by-phosphorus to a match factory strike; from the firebombing of Hamburg to the deadly compounds derived from phosphorus today-The 13th Element weaves together a rich tableau of brilliant and oddball characters, social upheavals, and bizarre events.

Author Notes

John Emsley is Science Writer in Residence at both Cambridge University and Imperial College of London University.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. vii
Introductionp. 1
1. Out of alchemyp. 3
2. The alchemist and his apprenticep. 25
3. The toxic tonicp. 47
4. Strike a lightp. 65
5. Strike!p. 83
6. The cost of a box of matchesp. 103
7. Gomorrahp. 131
8. The ultimate evil--and a power for goodp. 159
9. Murderp. 187
10. Fortunes from phosphorusp. 207
11. Unlucky daysp. 225
12. The supreme rulerp. 235
13. Oh, shit!p. 255
14. Spontaneous human combustion and other horrorsp. 279
Epilogue: The Devil's element?p. 299
Appendix The right chemistryp. 303
Sourcesp. 307
Indexp. 317