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

4.45 of 5 stars 4.45  ·  rating details  ·  1,243 ratings  ·  158 reviews
The Elementshas become an international sensation, with over one million copies in-print worldwide.

The highly-anticipated paperback edition ofThe Elementsis finally available.

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 o...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published April 3rd 2012 by Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers (first published October 1st 2009)
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When I was a kid, my father had the entire Time/Life science series. For you young whippersnappers, Time/Life books were educational series that covered all kinds of topics - history, science, literature, you name it. The idea was that you sign up and they send you books, once a month, until the series was finished or you decided you no longer wanted to receive it.

The Science series focused on, of course, science, with books devoted to every facet of physics, medicine, chemistry, biology.... It...more
Jul 21, 2010 Carol rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: chemistry students, anyone interested in and curious about the world
Recommended to Carol by: Jon Mitchell
I think I might go 4.5 stars on this if that were an option. This got great reviews and was recommended for purchase by Jon M., one of our science teachers. I sat down to catalog it yesterday and ended up pretty much reading the whole thing. It has been many a year since I had to think about Chemistry, but even if I had zero background in the subject I think I still would have found the book fascinating.

First of all, it's just a thing of beauty - black background pages with photos that just pop

Bill Kubeck
When I picked up this book in the library I skimmed the first couple of pages, looked at a random entry, and really liked what I saw. When I started reading it, I laughed out loud at the first line: "The periodic table is the universal catalog of everything you can drop on your foot."

But then things started to slip. Gray's humor is wildly uneven and mixes on-target wit with ham-fisted jokes and gratuitous insults aimed at anything he considers silly or stupid. This kind of arbitrary prejudice an...more
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 backgroun...more
Nick Black
i've bought this guy's beautiful poster twice (; you can see it in my atlanta condo's technical bay ( so, when i saw this sitting around at google, i picked it up and read it through. the pictures and printing are stunning, and it's one of the most perfect coffee tables i've ever seen. i deduct two stars, however, due to wasting a quarter of every recto page on highly repetitive graphics, redundant in and of thems...more
What can I say? The Periodic Table has never seemed so cool in this gorgeously photographed coffee table book.

This is not a reference work, although it does contain basic information on each element like its position in the periodic table, atomic weight, density, atomic radius, crystal structure, electron filling order, atomic emission spectrum, and state of matter (solid/liquid/gas) vs temperature.

Instead .. it is a work to inspire wonder with first-rate, brilliantly-lit photographs for almos...more
Catelyn May
I love this book so much, it's ridiculous. As someone who spent most of high school and college trying to like science and failing (often in more than one way--I'm looking at you, Organic Chemistry!), as in adult I've come to love books that make science interesting. I've been into pop-physics lately, and occasionally the history of math, and like those, this book really makes me wonder why science education is so damn boring. Every Chem class I took felt so overwhelmingly dry and irrelevant, wh...more
Some Small Silence
I am a tutor at a nationally recognized tutoring center. One of our brightest students brought this book in to work with as an enrichment product. I will freely admit that I am generally not an enormous fan of hard science, and was a bit hesitant when I was first faced with it. I'm a history major, and I chose the topic for my Marine Biology term paper based on the fact that Sea Otters are really cute. That's why I was quite surprised when I found this book fascinating. Its blend of valuable sci...more
Henry Martin
A well presented visual exploration of the periodic table, with high quality images of not only the actual elements (when possible), but also of some common items which are made from (or feature) the element discussed.
There is a brief description, some basic data(atomic weight, density, atomic radius, and crystal structure; plus atomic emission spectrum, state of matter, and electron filling order), and history of the element, its uses, and where it is found in nature.

Definitely a good book fo...more
"Coffee Table" style book that's easy to pick up, hard to put down.
Anton Klink
An approachable, fun, engaging, visual book about chemistry? You'll have to see it to believe it, but this book fits all those criteria. What started out as a an app for iPad, has branched into paper-based book - and it looks glorious. If this is the future of book printing, I welcome it with open hands. The photos are magnificent, the text is informative and engaging, but maybe most surprising of all - this book is laugh-out-loud funny in almost every chapter, which is an amazing feat for a boo...more
With lines like "Sodium is the most explosive, and the best tasting, of all the alkali metals (the elements from the first column of the periodic table)" (Gray 35) or transitional lines such as "White phosphorus--toxic, pyrophoric, and used mainly in war--is fairly close to pure evil, though if it were judge purely on the basis of smell that contest would be won by sulfur" (45), it's hard to imagine anyone ever topping Theodore Gray's beautiful book about all the elements in which our world is m...more
Great pictures of the elements, brief description of the importance of each element, plus a bit of scientific information for the geek. If you go the the website at, you can order customized posters. For example, the poster of my name has carbon (C), iodine (I), neodymium (Nd), and yttrium (y). Carbon is represented by diamond and the iodine was heated on a white plate and has a nice purple fume. It is a very cool poster. It hangs in my office at work, where most of my cowo...more

For being so fundamental to our lives, the chemical elements are a mystery to most of us. What does calcium look like? Or silicon? Everyone in school has seen a Periodic Table of the Elements, but who has ever seen a bit of chlorine — half of common salt? Theo Gray first began chasing down pure samples of each element mostly as a nerdy joke — in order to make a Periodic Table Table, a hefty wooden table holding a bit of every element in the Period...more
Fantastic book! My 7-year-old son is very enthralled with studying the periodic table of the elements and so I checked this book out from the library. Wow! I was blown away by the fantastic photography helping the reader to get really up close and personal with the elements. Each element has its own 2-page spread with a picture of the element itself in its raw form and then things that are made from the element. Some of the elements further down in the table don't have pictures, but instead the...more
Max Evans
I'm not sure if this is a book or an application. The difference between what a book has traditionally been and what an e-book is nebulous, and it's probably to the detriment of the transfer of knowledge. I'm going to write a review here because I think this app/book really shows the combination of old and new knowledge. I got this when I read that someone thought that the cost of the iPad was worth paying to see this app/book. That's pretty high praise so I bought it. It's about the price of an...more
Robert E
The book I have read is The Elements by Theodore Gray. This book is a nonfiction informational text about the periodic table, and all of its elements. This book starts off by separating and labeling the periodic table into three sections. Metals, nonmetals, and transitional elements, it then proceeds to tell why the period table is divided that way and what elements are included in those sections. After this breakdown each page (going by the elements on the period table in order) lists an elemen...more
Cheryl in CC NV
Too much beauty and information for a library book - buy it. And/or go to and buy a puzzle or game inspired by it. (No, I don't work for Gray or for the webstore; I'm just a fan.) Get it the year before your teenager takes Chemistry in school, or get it for yourself so you can say, as I do, that 'Chemistry is Cool.'

(I wonder if there is an Android app, or a poster? I'll have to check.)
The Elements by Theodore Gray is a fun way to learn about the elements. He is humorous and smart, (though some jokes are for people who already know some chemistry) it is very fun and I recommend this for anyone who wants to learn about the elements and anyone looking to teach about the elements. The language is not technical so you don't have to have a large vocabulary to understand what he's saying.
A beautiful book, illustrated with amazing photographs, and peppered with Theodore Gray's curmudgeonly commentary (a drinking game that counted every time he says something snide about incandescent light bulbs would surely end in alcohol poisoning). Part science, part the brain dump of an obsessive mind, this volume was a lot of fun.
I know this book has a very narrow target audience, but with that in mind I give this book 5 stars. I thoroughly enjoyed learning random facts about each element. In fact, the first few night I stayed up way later than I should have to read about just one more element. My wife got pretty irritated with me telling her every time I learned something cool, which was often.
The middle of the book did slow down considerably. I lost interest when I stopped recognizing the element names and when every...more
I don't know exactly where I am in the book--I keep skipping around. It's interesting to read about each element and how it fits in the world and why it's important. The author also has a sense of humor--it keeps the book from becoming dull.
The most gorgeous book on the periodic table you'll ever see, but it's the fun, smart, and informative text that really makes this book stand out.
I love this book. I have always been interested in the elements and have read several books about them but this one is different from the rest. It gives you a lot of technical information like the emission spectrum, atomic weight, and lots of other numbers and diagrams that will satisfy any science geek. The information on what it is used for, where to find it, who first discovered it, how they got their names and other tidbits is interesting and written by someone who clearly loves his topic an...more
If you need one book about the periodic table of the elements, let it be this one! First of all, this large book just looks beautiful, with full size macroscopic pictures of artefacts containing the different elements. Secondly, the text is very informative, a rare thing for books that have so many illustrations like this one. Thirdly, Gray writes about his subject with a love that you would normally only expect from an ornitologist describing his favourite species of birds. And finally, Gray ha...more
Kay Mcgriff
If there were ever going to be a book (besides Moby Dick) that I wouldn’t like, The Elements: A Visual Exploration of Every Known Atom in the Universe (Black Dog and Leventhal 2009) by Theodore Gray, would probably be it. Come one–the periodic table? All I remember from school about it is that I had to memorize an awful lot of element names, numbers and symbols and then try to balance them in equations. Ugh.

Fortunately, Theodore Gray opens up much more in this exploration of, well, everything. F...more
Beautiful and informative book!

Didn't quite get to read all the details for every element as my library would only part with this book for 24 hours. The author included tons of factoids, some more interesting than others. While his tone was sometimes amusing, it was also occasionally annoying; for example, when he thinks an element or its application is stupid, he has no problem saying so, and I found this arrogance a bit grating. I also didn't like how the author tried to transition from eleme...more
This is a great book with lots of very interesting information and amazing photos. I really like how much detailed information it gives about each and every element of the periodic table. There is a description of the element with some basic facts about what the element looks like, both pure and combined with other elements. The description also includes major properties of the element. After this, the author delves deeper into its uses in the real world, which I think is very interesting. He al...more
And it comes with a poster! Theodore Gray has produced a beautifully designed, enthralling book with double page spreads depicting most of the elements of the periodic table. A metallurgist & collector of chemical elements, he writes with humor, enthusiasm, & authority. The left spread is a photo of an element with its chemical symbol, while the right spread provides the element's name, atomic weight, chemical spectrum, melting & boiling points, etc. This page also features photos of...more
Scott Klemm
This type of book might seem to be an unlikely candidate for a review on Goodreads. Reading a book describing the various elements listed on the periodic table sounds as exciting as reading a Merriam-Webster dictionary. Actually this book is nicely illustrated and very interesting. The author, Theodore Gray, has an odd hobby of collecting every known element that is “not forbidden by the laws of physics or the laws of men.” His book pictures the actual pure element (when possible) and mineral sp...more
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Theodore Gray is the author of 'The Elements' and 'Mad Science: Experiments You Can Do at Home-But Probably Shouldn't', and of Popular Science magazine's 'Gray Matter' column. He is the proprietor of and the creator of the iconic photographic periodic table poster seen in universities, schools, museums, and on TV shows from 'MythBusters' to 'Hannah Montana'. In his other life, he...more
More about Theodore Gray...
Theo Gray's Mad Science: Experiments You Can Do At Home - But Probably Shouldn't The Photographic Card Deck of the Elements Flashcards: With Big Beautiful Photographs of All 118 Elements in the Periodic Table Mad Science 2: Experiments You Can Do At Home, But STILL Probably Shouldn't Prvky: Obrazový průvodce všemi známými atomy ve vesmíru The Elements 2014 Calendar

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