Mad Scientists and Mad Elements Essay

Good Essays

We all know the saying, “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.” Similarly, every element in the periodic table has its’ own story and its’ own unique meaning. However, the average high schooler simply associates these elements as something used in their chemistry classes. In fact, the elements seen on the periodic table actually have much more to do in our daily lives and in history than most people know. While giving a whole new perspective to the meaning of Chemistry, author Sam Kean successfully recounts the hidden tales through humor and wit in his bestselling novel The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of Elements. Specifically, Chapter 15, “An Element of …show more content…

Roentgen performed many tests, including his colleagues’ discoveries, which involved painting the plates with a barium compound. When the plates were held in front of an object, Roentgen was able to see through whatever he was holding up. Inevitably, he was astonished by this discovery and immediately suspected that he had gone mad. As readers now, one finds his reaction to the first traces of x-ray quite humorous. In fact, this tale is certainly one where the ending is not detrimental, and in contrary the happy opposite. Essentially, Kean focuses on the idea that these certain elements mentioned in the chapter affected the lives of these mad scientists immensely. For the most part, these elements hurt the careers and lives of some scientists, however this was not the case in all of the stories in this chapter. The examples of selenium-crazed Crookes, the false hype of the manganese-covered megadaltons, the palladium scandal of Pons and Fleischmann and the startling discovery of the x-ray by Roentgen successfully conveyed the central theme and concepts. It is very easy for someone to understand the context-filled stories and how they connect to what Kean is trying to establish. Additionally, the author generally maintains a balanced bias throughout the chapter. However, with the story of Pons and Fleischmann, one can really sense Kean’s negative attitude to these two scientists. He describes the pair as “impostors, swindlers, and cheats” (263) as well as

Get Access