The Alchemy of Us: How Humans and Matter Transformed One Another

Ainissa Ramirez

In the bestselling tradition of Stuff Matters and The Disappearing Spoon: a clever and engaging look at materials, the innovations they made possible, and how these technologies changed us. One of the Best Summer Science Books of 2020 by Science Friday | Named one of Smithsonian Magazine's Ten Best Science Books of 2020 | Finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Award in Science and Technology | Winner of the 2021 AAAS/Subaru SBF Prize in the Young Adult Science Book Category In The Alchemy of Us, scientist and science writer Ainissa Ramirez examines eight inventions—clocks, steel rails, copper communication cables, photographic film, light bulbs, hard disks, scientific labware, and silicon chips—and reveals how they shaped the human experience. Ramirez tells the stories of the woman who sold time, the inventor who inspired Edison, and the hotheaded undertaker whose invention pointed the way to the computer. She describes, among other things, how our pursuit of precision in timepieces changed how we sleep; how the railroad helped commercialize Christmas; how the necessary brevity of the telegram influenced Hemingway's writing style; and how a young chemist exposed the use of Polaroid's cameras to create passbooks to track Black citizens in apartheid South Africa. These fascinating and inspiring stories offer new perspectives on our relationships with technologies.

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MIT Press



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