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Seven Elements that Changed the World

The fascinating story of how seven elements—iron, carbon, gold, silver, uranium, titanium, and silicon—have changed modern life, for good and ill.

With carbon we access heat, light and mobility at the flick of a switch, while silicon enables us to communicate across the globe in an instant. Yet our use of the Earth's mineral resources is not always for the benefit of humankind—our relationship with the elements is one of great ambivalence. Uranium is both productive (nuclear power) and destructive (nuclear bombs); iron is the bloody weapon of war, but also the economic tool of peace; our desire for alluring gold is the foundation of global trade, but has also led to the death of millions. John Browne, CEO of British Petroleum (BP) for twelve years, vividly describes how seven elements are shaping the world around us, for better and for worse.

Combining history, science, and politics, Seven Elements takes you on a present-day adventure of human passion and innovation. This journey is far from over: we continue to find surprising new uses for these seven elements. In this narrative of discovery, readers will come to understand how titanium pervades modern consumer society, how natural gas is transforming the global energy sector, and how an innovative new form of carbon could be starting a technology revolution.

John Browne trained as an engineer, was CEO of BP from 1995 to 2007, and remains an influential leader in the energy business. He is chairman of the Crick Institute, a fellow of the Royal Society and the US Academy of Arts and Sciences, former president of the Royal Academy of Engineering and former chairman of Tate. He is a collector of antique books and the author of four previous titles, including The Glass Closet: Why Coming Out is Good Business and Seven Elements that Changed the World, also available from Pegasus Books. John lives in London.

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