The Elements : A Visual Exploration of Every Known Atom in the Universe, Hardback

The Elements : A Visual Exploration of Every Known Atom in the Universe Hardback

4.5 out of 5 (6 ratings)


The Elements has become an international sensation, with over one million copies in-print worldwide.

An eye-opening, original collection of gorgeous, never-before-seen photographic representations of the 118 elements in the periodic table.

The elements are what we, and everything around us, are made of.

But how many elements has anyone actually seen in pure, uncombined form?

The Elements provides this rare opportunity. Based on seven years of research and photography, the pictures in this book make up the most complete, and visually arresting, representation available to the naked eye of every atom in the universe. Organized in order of appearance on the periodic table, each element is represented by a spread that includes a stunning, full-page, full-color photograph that most closely represents it in its purest form.

For example, at -183?C, oxygen turns from a colorless gas to a beautiful pale blue liquid.

Also included are fascinating facts, figures, and stories of the elements as well as data on the properties of each, including atomic weight, density, melting and boiling point, valence, electronegativity, and the year and location in which it was discovered. Several additional photographs show each element in slightly altered forms or as used in various practical ways.

The element's position on the periodic table is pinpointed on a mini rendering of the table and an illustrated scale of the element's boiling and/or melting points appears on each page along with a density scale that runs along the bottom.

Packed with interesting information, this combination of solid science and stunning artistic photographs is the perfect gift book for every sentient creature in the universe.Includes a tear-out poster of Theodore Gray's iconic Photographic Periodic Table!


  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 240 pages, 400 full colour photographs
  • Publisher: Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers Inc
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Popular science
  • ISBN: 9781579128142



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Showing 1 - 5 of 6 reviews.

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From Theodore Gray: <i>"I started collecting elements in 2002 […and] by 2009, I had assembled nearly 2,300 objects representing every element, the possession of which is not forbidden by the laws of physics or the laws of man. […] Some elements can be experienced in large quantities, like the 135-pound iron ball I keep in my office for people to trip over. Others are best enjoyed in responsible moderation -- keep too much uranium in the office, and people start asking questions (keep over 15 pounds, and the Feds start asking questions)."</i><i>The Elements</i> is a lush and visually stunning coffee-table book that showcases those samples and provides a terrific individual "biography" of each element.Gray opens with an overview of the Periodic Table and its organization of elements into groups according to their similar characteristics. But then he explores them, element by element, in order of their atomic number rather than by group -- an effective method because the repeated returns to the various groups reinforce those group characteristics while familiarizing readers (YA and adult) with the individual elements.Each biography is a two-page spread -- the left a full-page photo of one of those samples from Gray’s collection, and the right an array of text and pleasing images that detail the element’s history, uses, and technical specs (atomic weight; density; crystal structure; orbital electron arrangement; melting and boiling points; emission spectrum). Though it's a reference work, I read this book straight through -- often thinking, “okay, just one more” but then unable to resist that each element’s text ends with a teaser for the next one, and that Gray is liberal with trivia, personal experience, and wit. He dubs Tellurium the most melodic name and discusses the politics involved in naming new elements, finishing: “And so it is that we come to the end of our journey through the periodic table not with a bang, but with a committee.”He’s the Bill Bryson of the Periodic Table! Highly recommended.

Review by

I am a chemist and have always been fascinated by the Periodic Table of Elements. So, imagine my excitement when I saw this book sitting in the bookstore. Not only does it provide information on all 118 elements in the Periodic Table, it does it in a way that is interesting, accessible, and beautiful. This is a book that makes you want to touch it and turn the pages, you just can't resist. The picture of the elements are colorful and intriguing; they are all featured on a stylish black background...this is just a beautiful book.Each element features a picture of the element in its purest form. The side of the page has a small strip that gives lots of technical data. The elements position on the periodic table is showm, atomic weight, density, atomic radius, crystal structure, electron order filing, atomic emissions spectrum, and state of matter are all given in this strip. The rest of the page is given over to a few paragraphs about the element. Then there are excellent pictures showing instances where the element is used and these pictures also have small descriptions. Most elements are given a two page spread, but some of the lucky elements get 4 pages!In addition to the individual elements the beginning of the book discusses the different sections of the periodic table and how the periodic table of elements got its shape.This is more of a coffee table book than an ultimate reference to the Periodic Table of Elements. Although it does provide a lot of information on the Elements. Much of the discussion on each Element is anecdotal and somewhat humorous. This makes the book an excellent reference for the layman interested in Elements, it also makes the book an entertaining read. You would have to go elsewhere to get into the gritty details of some of these elements though....for example if you were trying to synthesize something with them or something else deeply technical.Overall I really loved this book. It is such an awesome book with such neat pictures. Everyone in the house from my computer loving husband to my three year old son has spent time looking through this book. It is just such an interesting book and it is presented in such a beautiful way. Not to mention it is even fun to read! I think everyone should have this book in their house; if nothing else it makes for interesting discussions as you see the bizarre forms of some of the elements.

Review by

A cool book book with really great pictures, but it's written at a level that you would have to be a science nerd, or know alot about chemistry to enjoy it. The pictures were great and I learned a lot.

Review by

What a joy to read! <i>The elements</i> is truly “a visual exploration of every known element in the universe.” Author Theodore Gray (also a co-founder of Wolfram Research and its Mathematica), in a quirky and lively manner, discusses all the elements of the periodic table from #1 hydrogen to #118 ununoctium. (In my college days, lawrencium was the last element discovered. We’ve come a long way.) Stories range from the radioactive Eagle Scout to gray tin to vanadium tools. And the FBI’s confiscation of an element in the collection.Gray and Nick Mann provided the photographs accompanying each element from Gray’s extensive element collection. Each element is pictured in pure form and items using the element are also pictured, from coins, jewelry and lead crystal to red fiestaware (containing uranium), light bulbs, common medicines like pepto-bismal and much more. Against a black background, the photos and layout were stunning. The paper was heavy coated paper which meant a book of considerable weight. Truly a coffee table book!Gray also includes an explanation of the periodic table, orbitals with filling orders and other chemical properties than a non-chemist might want to skip. There is also a very short bibliography for further reading. If you want more information, Gray has a website with lots more photos and facts for students, teachers and professionals.There was not a conventional periodic table as I remember it in the book, making it difficult for me to visualize where the element fit. It would have helped to have one in addition to the stylized table used throughout. I was also taken aback by his comment that when “oxygen combines with hydrogen and carbon, the result can be anything from water to …” Really! The comments about incandescent bulbs were also starting to wear thin after the 5th or 6th time. And the author is decidedly opinionated about other things so be prepared. However this in no way detracted from the book. For someone who needs a more scholarly approach, there are many books on chemical elements and the periodic table. But for a light-hearted look at basic chemistry, this book is superb.

Review by

This book visits each of the 118 known elements in turn, offering up facts about them, their discoveries, and their applications (if any), as well as photographs of the element in its pure form, when possible, and of some of their compounds or bits of technology in which they're used. What truly amazed me about this book is that it's not just informative and pretty, but also surprisingly funny. I knew I was in for an entertaining treat from the first sentence, in which the author describes the periodic table as "the universal catalog of everything you can drop on your foot," and it did not disappoint. I even laughed out loud a number of times. That sense of humor really helped to keep things interesting, even when we were moving through endless ranks of nearly indistinguishable gray metals. Who knew chemistry could be so much fun? Not even me, and I'm a total science geek.

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