The elements. A visual exploration

The elements. A visual exploration of every known atom in the universe

Theodore Gray

New York, US: Black Dog & Leventhal 2009 | 240pp | ?22.95 (HB)

ISBN 9781579128142

Reviewed by John Uttin

Mendeleev’s periodic table transformed the chemical elements from a collection of unrelated individuals into a well ordered array in which both family traits and similarities to neighbours stood out clearly. 


This book is not a detailed history of the periodic table in all its variations (see Chemistry World, March 2009, p46), but rather a beautifully produced coffee-table volume aimed at anyone interested in the elements which make up our world. 

The author, Theodore Gray, is passionate about the periodic table, specialising for many years in its popular portrayal, including a periodic table poster which can be widely seen in schools and universities. He has taken many stunning photographs of the elements, a large number of which is included in this volume. 

Gray has avidly collected element samples, and has even produced physical wooden periodic ’tables’ containing samples of each element. 

This book consists of a double page spread for each element, arranged in order of appearance in the periodic table, giving brief details of history, properties and uses of each element. 

The photographs, which stand out beautifully against a solid black background, taken by the author (assisted by freelance photographer Nick Mann) make this a visually appealing book to dip into for reference or sheer pleasure. 

Although aimed at a popular market, it can be enjoyed by professional chemists, especially in its description of the huge variety of uses of each element.