Cover image for A guide to the elements
A guide to the elements
Stwertka, Albert.
Personal Author:
Revised edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Oxford University Press, [1998]

Physical Description:
238 pages : illustrations (some color) ; 26 cm
Presents the basic concepts of chemistry and explains complex theories before offering a separate article on each of the building blocks that make up the universe.
General Note:
At head of title: Oxford.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
QD466 .S78 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



The chemical elements and the basic principles of chemistry are the foundations of all scientific study, but this is the first book devoted to making information about the elements easily available and understandable. A Guide to the Elements begins with an introductory section that explainssome of the basic concepts of chemistry and traces the history and development of the periodic table of the elements. In clear, nontechnical language, using historical anecdotes and everyday examples, noted science writer Albert Stwertka makes complex ideas and terms easily understandable. Each ofthe 112 elements is discussed in a separate article accompanied by photographs--many in full color--of practical applications of the elements. Middle school and high school students will find this a welcome reference, as will adults with no background in chemistry. An excellent "look-it-up" resource as well as a superb introduction to chemistry, A Guide to the Elements is a good beginning step on the road to chemical literacy.

Author Notes

Albert Stwertka is professor emeritus at the United States Merchant Marine Academy

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

There is a real need for resources about the elements for secondary students. A Guide to the Elements is on the right track. In the introduction, Stwertka explains the periodic table, its history and layout. He does so in easy-to-understand language without oversimplifying key concepts. Each element, in order of its atomic number, is discussed in one to seven pages, with illustrations, sometimes in color. The book is current through element 112, created in early 1996. Each entry includes the atomic number, chemical symbol, and group in a box, followed by a description of the element's discovery and applications, including its use in consumer products. For example, under nitrogen, the discussion covers the use of nitric acid in fertilizer and explosives. The periodic table is reproduced for each entry, with the element being discussed highlighted. A glossary, a chronology of the discovery of the individual elements, a short further reading list, and an index complete the book. The further reading list consists of 18 books published from 1961 to 1996, some of which may be found in YA collections. A comparison of the guide's entry for neon with those in Encyclopedia Americana and McGraw Hill Encyclopedia of Science and Technology found more detailed information, the kind needed at report time, in the two encyclopedias, but it was not as attractively presented. High-school and public libraries will want to consider purchase, perhaps for the circulating collection. As for the CD-ROM, boring is the first adjective that comes to mind. It provides very brief information about an element's history and properties. The CD-ROM is easy to install and use, but information is scanty. Audio excerpts include Liverpool poet Roger McGough reciting his poems and Tom Lehrer's humorous song about the elements. There are video clips from the TV series The Elements. The periodic table is shown as gray and red tiles, but the white font makes it hard to read the element number. Again, an encyclopedia will provide more in-depth information in less time than it takes to put the CD in the drive and click on the necessary icons and boxes.

Library Journal Review

Written for the secondary school student or inquisitive lay reader, this reference book offers a succinct introduction to the chemical elements. Stwertka (physics, U.S. Merchant Marine Academy) has written or coauthored many books that explain scientific concepts at the middle or high school level. He begins his book with a general introduction to the history, theory, and arrangement of the periodic table, then offers a brief (one- to seven-page) article on each of the 112 elements that details its history, chemical and physical properties, and modern applications. The volume concludes with a short glossary and a chronology. Though most of the information can be found in a good encyclopedia set, this one-volume reference is a handy compendium that will complement the science collection of any school or public library.‘Wade Lee, Univ. of Toledo Libs., Ohio (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

The Periodic Tablep. 6
Hydrogenp. 16
Heliump. 22
Lithiump. 25
Berylliump. 29
Boronp. 31
Carbonp. 34
Nitrogenp. 41
Oxygenp. 47
Fluorinep. 50
Neonp. 53
Sodiump. 54
Magnesiump. 57
Aluminump. 59
Siliconp. 61
Phosphorusp. 64
Sulfurp. 66
Chlorinep. 69
Argonp. 71
Potassiump. 73
Calciump. 75
Scandiump. 79
Titaniump. 81
Vanadiump. 83
Chromiump. 85
Manganesep. 87
Ironp. 89
Cobaltp. 92
Nickelp. 94
Copperp. 96
Zincp. 99
Galliump. 101
Germaniump. 103
Arsenicp. 104
Seleniump. 106
Brominep. 108
Kryptonp. 110
Rubidiump. 112
Strontiump. 113
Yttriump. 115
Zirconiump. 117
Niobiump. 119
Molybdenump. 121
Technetiump. 122
Rutheniump. 124
Rhodiump. 125
Palladiump. 126
Silverp. 127
Cadmiump. 130
Indiump. 132
Tinp. 133
Antimonyp. 135
Telluriump. 136
Iodinep. 137
Xenonp. 140
Cesiump. 142
Bariump. 144
Lanthanump. 146
Ceriump. 148
Praseodymiump. 149
Neodymiump. 151
Promethiump. 153
Samariump. 155
Europiump. 156
Gadoliniump. 157
Terbiump. 159
Dysprosiump. 160
Holmiump. 161
Erbiump. 162
Thuliump. 163
Ytterbiump. 164
Lutetiump. 165
Hafniump. 166
Tantalump. 168
Tungstenp. 170
Rheniump. 172
Osmiump. 173
Iridiump. 174
Platinump. 175
Goldp. 178
Mercuryp. 181
Thalliump. 184
Leadp. 186
Bismuthp. 189
Poloniump. 191
Astatinep. 193
Radonp. 194
Franciump. 196
Radiump. 197
Actiniump. 199
Thoriump. 200
Protactiniump. 202
Uraniump. 203
Neptuniump. 206
Plutoniump. 207
Americiump. 209
Curiump. 210
Berkeliump. 211
Californiump. 212
Einsteiniump. 214
Fermiump. 215
Mendeleviump. 216
Nobeliump. 217
Lawrenciump. 218
Rutherfordiump. 219
Dubniump. 221
Seaborgiump. 222
Bohriump. 224
Hassiump. 225
Meitneriump. 226
Ununniliump. 227
Unununiump. 228
Ununbiiump. 229
Ununquadiump. 230
Epiloguep. 232
Glossaryp. 234
Chronologyp. 237
Further Readingp. 241
Web Sitesp. 242
Indexp. 243