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Fifty Minerals that Changed the Course of History
Fifty Minerals that Changed the Course of History Fifty Minerals that Changed the Course of History Fifty Minerals that Changed the Course of History Fifty Minerals that Changed the Course of History

* Book Type:


Publisher: Firefly Books

Author Statement: Eric Chaline
Series Name: Fifty Things That Changed the Course of History
Audience: Trade
Specs: full color throughout, further reading, index, ribbon marker
Pages: 224
Trim Size: 6 3/4" X 9" X 14/16"
Language code 1: eng
Publication Date: 20120719
Copyright Year: 2012
Price: Select Below

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Fifty Minerals that Changed the Course of History

Praise for Fifty Animals that Changed the Course of History:
It's the sort of book that has you saying 'Wow, listen to this...' and 'Did you know...' to companions over and over.
--The Globe and Mail

Fifty Minerals that Changed the Course of History is a beautifully presented guide to the minerals that have had the greatest impact on human civilization. These are the materials used from the Stone Age to the First and Second Industrial Revolutions to the Nuclear Age and include metals, ores, alloys, salts, rocks, sodium, mercury, steel and uranium. The book also includes minerals used as currency, as jewelry and as lay and religious ornamentation when combined with gem minerals like diamonds, amber, coral, and jade.

Entries are organized by name and considered for their influence in four categories: Industrial, Cultural, Commercial and Scientific. More than 200 elegant drawings, photographs, paintings and excerpts from literature highlight the concise text.

Examples of the fifty minerals are:

  • Diamonds: Did a necklace ordered by Louis XV precipitate the French Revolution?
  • Sulphur: The biblical brimstone now used in organic farming.
  • Clay: The oldest ceramic object is not a cooking pot or drinking bowl, but a statuette.
  • Arsenic: Was Napoleon murdered while imprisoned on the island of St. Helena?
  • Coal: The Romans invented the first central heating system.
  • Saltpeter: China's fourth "Great Invention" was perhaps not so great after all.
  • Salt: Once used as currency, we give it little thought today.
  • Jade: The Chinese fabric of "pajamas for eternity."

Ubiquitous or rare, the minerals described in Fifty Minerals that Changed the Course of History have been fundamental to human progress, for good or evil. Many are familiar--the aluminum can we drink from, the car we drive, the jewelry we wear. They can be poisons, medicines or weapons, but wherever found and however used, their importance can be easily overlooked. This attractive reference gives us fascinating insight into our undeniable dependence on minerals.

Bio:

Eric Chaline is a journalist and writer. He is the author of Fifty Animals that Changed the Course of History, as well as numerous titles on philosophy and history. He lives in the UK, where he is conducting doctoral research in sociology at South Bank University, London.

Preface:

Introduction

How long can men thrive between walls of brick, walking on asphalt pavements, breathing the fumes of coal and of oil, growing, working, dying, with hardly a thought of wind, and sky, and fields of grain, seeing only machine-made beauty, the mineral-like quality of life?
Charles Lindberg (1902–74)

The history of human civilization can be told in different ways. So far in this series, it has been told with plants (Fifty Plants that Changed the Course of History) and animals (Fifty Animals that Changed the Course of History), and in this third volume, we focus on minerals. Minerals, in the broadest sense of the term, encompass a huge variety of natural and manmade materials, including metals and alloys, rocks, crystals, gemstones, organic minerals, salts, and ores.

The Rise of Man

The history of how and when our hominid ancestors became human is still a matter of debate among anthropologists and archaeologists. The capacities that were once thought to differentiate humans from the "lower" animals--language, social organization, emotions, tool use and manufacture, symbolic reasoning, and self-consciousness--have been shown to be present in other species such as birds, cetaceans, and apes. However, no other species has developed these capacities to the same extent as humans to transform the natural environment and effectively removed itself from the processes of evolution. Humanity's transformation of the environment began with the domestication of plants and animals, but as civilization moved from subsistence farming to urban living, the manufacture of goods, and trade, the emphasis shifted to minerals: stone for building; metals for tools and weapons, and later machinery; hydrocarbons for energy; earths, ores, and salts for industry; and precious and semi-precious stones and metals for currency and adornment.

Anthropologists believe that morphological and behavioral changes triggered the process that turned our ape-like ancestors into modern humans. While it is impossible to reconstruct how our pre-human ancestors thought, felt, or related to one another, we have practical evidence of their level of development from their tools--at least those made from durable materials such as stone--the earliest of which are estimated to be around 2.6 millions years old. It is possible that humanity's relationship with tools goes even further back but it may be that these earlier "tools" were found rather than fashioned objects, like those used by chimpanzees today. But once our ancestors started fashioning tools, they radically transformed their relationship with the natural world.

The Age of Metals

For most of the past 2.6 million years, the human toolset consisted of ever more sophisticated tools made of principally of wood, bone, flint, and obsidian. In around 10,000 years BC, during what is called the "Neolithic Revolution," humans all over the globe established permanent settlements, and agriculture and animal husbandry replaced hunter-gathering as the main human lifestyle. Central to these developments was the technological revolution that affected every area of daily life.

The Stone Age made way for the Age of Metals: copper, bronze, and iron. The precious metals gold and silver have modern industrial applications, but their main historical uses have been as currency and jewelry and lay and religious ornamentation, when they were combined with gems such as diamonds, amber, coral, jade, and pearls. For all their technological sophistication, humans still depend for their energy needs on the mineral fuel that powered the First Industrial Revolution, coal, and also petroleum, the power source of the Second Industrial Revolution, now supplemented by the nuclear fuels, uranium and plutonium. Industrial processes from antiquity to the present day have made use of a wide range of metals, ores, alloys, and salts, including alum, aluminium, asphalt, arsenic, sodium, mercury, and steel.

TOC:

Contents

Introduction

    Diamond
    Copper
    Bronze
    Alabaster
    Alum
    Aluminum
    Asbestos
    Amber
    Silver
    Clay
    Arsenic
    Asphalt
    Gold
    Chalk
    Cola
    Coral
    Ivory
    Slate
    Iron
    Kaolin
    Graphite
    Gypsum
    Mercury
    Potassium
    Marble
    Nacre
    Natron
    Obsidian
    Ocher
    Petroleum
    Phosphorus
    Platinum
    Lead
    Plutonium
    Pumice
    Quartz
    Radium
    Sand
    Saltpeter
    Salt
    Flint
    Steel
    Tin
    Sulfur
    Talc
    Titanium
    Uranium
    Jade
    Tungsten
    Zinc

Further Reading
Index
Image Credits

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