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 atomic 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.
In Seven Elements That Have Changed the World, John Browne, CEO of BP for twelve years, vividly describes how seven elements are shaping the world around us – for good and bad. Combining history, science and politics, Seven Elements That Have Changed the World takes you on a present day adventure of human passion, ingenuity and discovery. This journey is far from over: we continue to find surprising new uses for these seven elements. Discover 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 (Lord Browne of Madingley) was born in Germany in 1948 and joined BP as a university apprentice in 1966, rising to Group Chief Executive from 1995 to 2007, where he built a reputation as a visionary leader, regularly voted the most admired businessman by his peers.
""The progress and prosperity that humanity has achieved [...] ", writes John Browne, "is driven by people – scientists, business people and politicians". The author has the rare distinction of having wide and deep experience of all three fields, and this is what makes Seven Elements such a fascinating and enjoyable book. Part popular science, part history, part memoir, these pages are infused with insight, shaped by the experience of a FTSE 100 Chief Executive and lifted by the innate optimism of a scientist."
– Brian Cox
"Seven Elements is a boon for those, like me, who gave up science much too soon in our teens. John Browne has found a fascinating way of helping us break through the crust of our ignorance. The scientific literate too will relish his personal mix of historical knowledge and technical prowess with his gift for making the complicated understandable."
– Peter Hennessy
"The human quest for knowledge and insight has led to extraordinary progress. It has transformed the lives we lead and the world we live in. But that onward march has also thrown us huge challenges about how we treat each other and the planet on which we live. This book forces us to confront these realities and does it in a unique and fascinating way. It weaves science and humanity together in a way that gives us new insight. This is an expertly crafted book by a unique thinker and talented engineer and businessman."
– Tony Blair
"John Browne uses seven elements, building blocks of the physical world, to explore a multitude of worlds beyond. From the rise of civilizations, to some of today's most important challenges and opportunities, to the frontiers of research, he weaves together science, history, politics and personal experience. Browne tells a lively story that enables us to see the essential elements of modern life in a new, original and highly engaging way."
– Daniel Yergin, Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Quest: Energy, Security and the Making of the Modern World and The Prize
"[T]his is a gripping tale of how people have utilised the intrinsic powers of the elements to shape our cultural, social and economic existence."
– Good Book Guide
"It is hard to think of another magnate who has written a general interest book of equal fascination [...]"
– Christopher Hirst, The Independent