This is a most interesting account of chemicals (stuff), their composition, properties and in many cases the circumstances in which they were discovered. Van Praagh can be credited with penning a lively book which makes compelling reading. It is filled with background knowledge and anecdotes, e.g. the human body contains enough fat for seven bars of soap; or, long ago gold was mixed with mercury to form an amalgam, this in turn was rubbed on silver, the surface was then heated, driving off the mercury and leaving it ‘silver gilt’. From the start it is clear that this is the...

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