Napoleon's Buttons: How 17 Molecules Changed History by Penny Le Couteur, Jay Burreson

By Penny Le Couteur, Jay Burreson

Napoleon's Buttons is the attention-grabbing account of seventeen teams of molecules that experience drastically motivated the process historical past. those molecules supplied the impetus for early exploration, and made attainable the voyages of discovery that ensued. The molecules ended in grand feats of engineering and spurred advances in drugs and legislations; they made up our minds what we now consume, drink, and put on. a metamorphosis as small because the place of an atom can result in huge, immense changes within the homes of a substance-which, in flip, may end up in nice ancient shifts.

With vigorous prose and one eye on colourful and strange information, Le Couteur and Burreson supply a unique approach to comprehend the shaping of civilization and the workings of our modern world.

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But just as in those spice molecules, it is the spatial arrangements of the atoms of the glucose molecule (and other sugars) that result in a taste—a sweet taste. Sugar can be extracted from many plants; in tropical regions it is usually obtained from sugarcane and in temperate regions from sugar beets. Sugarcane (Saccharum officinarum) is variously described as originating in the South Pacific or southern India. Sugarcane cultivation spread through Asia and to the Middle East, eventually reaching northern Africa and Spain.

It’s entirely possible that the molecules of isoeugenol in fresh nutmeg did act as a deterrent to the fleas that carry bubonic plague bacteria. And other molecules in nutmeg may also have insecticidal properties. Quantities of two other fragrant molecules, myristicin and elemicin, occur in both nutmeg and mace. The structures of these two compounds are very similar to each other and to those molecules we have already seen in nutmeg, cloves, and peppers. ” Its hallucinogenic properties—likely from the molecules myristicin and elemicin—were known for centuries.

Success no doubt helped convince Cook’s crew that their captain’s strange obsession with what they ate was worthwhile. Cook never lost a single man to scurvy. On his first voyage of almost three years, onethird of his crew died after contracting malaria or dysentery in Batavia 44 Ascorbic Acid (now Jakarta) in the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia). On his second voyage from 1772 to 1775, he lost one member of his crew to illness— but not to scurvy. Yet on that trip the crew of his companion vessel was badly affected by the problem.

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