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The Periodic Kingdom: A Journey into the Land of the Chemical Elements

(The Science Masters Series)

3.59  ·  Rating details ·  403 ratings  ·  48 reviews
Come on a journey into the heart of matter—and enjoy the process!—as a brilliant scientist and entertaining tour guide takes you on a fascinating voyage through the Periodic Kingdom, the world of the elements. The periodic table, your map for this trip, is the most important concept in chemistry. It hangs in classrooms and labs throughout the world, providing support for ...more
Paperback, 161 pages
Published May 2nd 1997 by Basic Books (first published June 1995)
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Jan 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book is about the periodic table. Its approach is poetic rather pedantic. Professor Atkins has written textbooks in nearly every field of chemistry. He uses metaphor of a geographic region to represent the table. For example liquid elements bromine and mercury are the only lakes. He describes in three parts: 1) the overall layout of the table, 2) the history of development of the table and names of elements and regions, and 3) the scientific laws that govern the nucleus, electrons, physical ...more
Andree Sanborn
In the beginning was hydrogen. With heat and time, hydrogen begat helium. After more heat and billions of more years, helium begat lithium and then beryllium. After billions of more years, and more fusion and collisions and heat, the other elements slowly were created.

We all have read in the news recently about another element that was discovered. The newly discovered elements exist a very short time; hundredths of a second. Why should we care about them? They are, after all, useless to both
Jul 12, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely terrible. The author tried to liken the periodic table to a map of a kingdom and fails miserably in his analogy. He also uses very intellectual vocabulary, not for the chemistry bits, but for the prose between. If he's trying to simplify chemistry, why not simply his language, too? I have a pretty extensive vocabulary and there were lots of words that I rarely see or wasn't sure about, which only made the reading longer and slower.

Toward the end he had one decent chapter explaining
Mar 08, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in chemisry
The Periodic Kingdom by Atkins is an accessible overview of basic chemistry. However, instead of presenting the information that the periodic table can tell us in a droll, textbook form, Atkins takes us on a journey and teaches the reader to look at the periodic table as a whole instead of in parts.

Critical Assessment
Atkins breaks down the period table and presents information from a general overview to the more minute details of how the elements interact. The first part of the book
May Ling
Oct 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science
Peter Atkins does a wonderful thing for the world in presenting Chemical elements as a geographic landscape. While I think he could lean in even further, I could't possibly dock a star, as he brought to life the periodic table in a way my high school teacher, despite his passion for his work, failed to do. If you've got kids that just hate chemistry or if you simply failed in allowing it to sink in, this book, will help you at least empathize and appreciate those that have made it their life's ...more
Dec 31, 2007 rated it it was ok
this is a book about the periodic table for people who aren't well-read in chemistry. the idea seems to be that it caters to people more into the arts by talking about the "landscape" of the "Periodic Kingdom" and saying things like "we have traveled widely in the kingdom, surveying it from high in the air in different lights, and trekking through it on the ground, where we have seen its texture." so if that kind of language annoys you, you probably shouldn't read this book.

but if you want a
Aug 15, 2009 rated it really liked it
I'm the sort of person who is endlessly fascinated by the chemistry of everyday things. My family often giggles at my constant talk of cooking as a tasty form of chemistry for instance. So an accessible text about chemistry was right up my alley.

This book takes the periodic table and describes it geographically. Qualities of each region of elements are explored. It was actually well conceived and executed as a text.

Feb 02, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really liked this one - very imaginative! I've decided to use excerpts in one of my classes to bring the topic a bit more alive for the students. Minus one star because some of the vocabulary is unnecessarily obtuse.
Mathew Huff
I ultimately felt quite insecure of my intellectual prowess at having almost given up on this books elementary, yet novel, approach to the 'kingdom' of the elements.
Mitch Grady
Nov 24, 2015 rated it did not like it
It never really takes off.
Nov 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
I've had this one on my shelf for a while and finally got around to reading it. It didn't disappoint. I've taught basic chemistry and it was my minor in college, so I consider myself pretty well-read in the chemistry department. This book compared the periodic table to a kingdom with many different regions and states. This analogy allows an interesting view of the table and makes the many relationships and quirks of the different 'states' easier to understand. The many patterns described by the ...more
John Robinson
Nov 21, 2017 rated it liked it
I read this mostly because I had obtained it randomly during college and I wanted to see how Peter Atkins communicated the basics of chemistry to laypeople. The book is probably best for adults without much background in chemistry or sciences. Atkins uses geography as an allegory for the basic patterns of chemistry found on the periodic table. The commitment to the geographical allegory sometimes precludes more direct and more effective descriptions of the underlying principles. I admire the ...more
Jan 03, 2020 added it
One of my favorite general science books of all time. Atkins takes us on a fantastical journey across the periodic that views the elements as a quantitative 2D or a 3D landscape or terrain according to how each element stacks up against the others according to various parameters. There are many surprising peaks, valleys, dips and crescendos. The reader comes away with a deeper understanding of the relative values and relationships between elements in the whole table. Amazing.
Brice Fuqua
Jul 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Views the periodic table as if it were a map to a world, with the individual elements making up different countries. An interesting approach, but not always clear. Atkins does provide a good history of how the table came to be developed. He also points out the limitations of the periodic table Recommended for those new to chemistry.
Cara W
Feb 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
An interesting take on the periodic table. A good tour of the table, treating it like a kingdom. The author claims he doesn't assume a knowledge of chemistry, but especially later in the book when discussing electron structure, I don't agree. That aside, it was an interesting read.
Feb 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Atkins brings colour and whimsy to a topic that is intrinsically dry to write about, despite its fascinating and profound implications in our world. Recommended to any interested in reading into general chemistry.
Linda Hayashi
May 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Chemistry interest helps, but not necessary to enjoy this approach of the elemental stuffs. The tour guide book style is beneficial and engaging. No doubt I will visit these pages periodically.
Mar 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
In high school I learned that electrons have discrete orbits around the nucleus in an atom. This is wrong. We'd been taught this fairy tale many decades after the truth was known to Heisenberg, from the 1920's - this good book explains all. Very readable and helpful, concerning why some elements like making molecules and some don't, all having to do with their internal arrangements.
Jason Mills
Aug 13, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Science readers
Shelves: non-fiction, science
Really enjoyed this one. Atkins spends the opening chapters depicting the periodic table as a 'kingdom', its landscape of peaks and slopes varying according to which attribute one chooses to focus on: atomic diameter, atomic weight, etc. Illustrated as simple 3D bar-charts, this metaphor is surprisingly effective in revealing the underlying rhythms of the table.

Later chapters elucidate a little of the history and nomenclature of the elements, and discuss the merits of the different ways of
Kevin de Ataíde
This is an excellent idea, except that the analogy with geography is clumsy. This can be seen by the number of times the author feels it is necessary to add 'in the kingdom' and 'of the kingdom,' and the idea of regions rising above the waves.

The rational order of material science is terrifying for a student of evolution, such as I am. That nature can generate this kind of order is confusing, given that order left to nature tends towards chaos. Creation is mathematical and mathematics means a
Nov 11, 2015 rated it liked it
P.W. Atkins takes the reader through the surprising and fascinating world of the periodic table and its elements. In The Periodic Kingdom, the reader will learn the ins and outs of the elements, and their importance in society.
Elements are the basic unit of life. They make up every tangible thing in the world, and they allow us to live here on Earth. However, the elements aren’t just a list of substances. Every element has its own personality, and each one brings their own different
May 08, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: science, chemistry
The Periodic Kingdom: A Journey into the Land of the Chemical Elements by Peter Atkins is a nonfiction that describes things at an atomic level by using a fictional setting to make things easier to describe; he talks about the atoms and their properties, as well as how electrons behave. Together, the atoms form the periodic table, a table of elements that list all the atoms in a 'neat and orderly' way.

I recommend this book to readers who need a start on chemistry; if you know how atoms behave,
Apr 10, 2014 rated it did not like it
Utter crap. I don't think I've ever disliked a book so quickly as this one. I read the first few pages then flipped through the rest in disbelief that it could be so bad! I checked it out from the library because I was excited to learn some new interesting things about the elements. I don't mind the use of analogy in science writing, but this book seems to be all analogy and very little real information. And horrid analogy at that: just because you say "green luscious landscape stars moons ...more
I'm always a fan of reading another perspective on the same topic. It's probably the easiest method of learning a difficult subject. One's own experience plus the experience provided by another with slightly different interests can give one two lifetimes of knowledge.

So I don't regret the time spent reading this book. But ... I just finished some teaching/tutoring in general chemistry and I can confidently say that this book will provide a 6th- or 7th-grade-level introduction to the periodic
Nov 13, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, science
I last did chemistry at school about 25 years ago. If it had been presented (at least initially) in this wonderfully engaging fashion, I might not have forgotten virtually all of it by now.

The conceit - that this is a land with separate regions (the elements) that have patterns - is rather good, if not exploited to its full effect. But Atkins eases you through the ideas without getting too technical (although there are times when he forgets that his audience may not be quite as conversant with
This is an allegorical book about the Periodic Table of Elements, as a travel guide of an imagined foreign land. While I wasn't sure to begin with how I felt about the allegory, after finishing it, and finding that the 'correct' scientific terms are presented as well as the allegorical ones, and that the science is taken seriously and presented well, I have decided I am very fond of it. I also like the 3D maps of atomic weight, radii, and ionisation energy; I wish one of electron affinity had ...more
May 07, 2014 rated it liked it
A very good book to read for those who are taking chemistry as a subject peripheral to their main focus of study. Also excellent for those (even chem majors) who are artistic and imaginative. A different way to 'see' chemistry and the periodic table. Best if read in the middle of your first year of chem or just after completing it before organic chem. Written by an excellent chemist/scientist who has the unique ability to speak to laymen on his topic of passion. Unfortuneately, he is an atheist.
Steven Cole
Atkins makes the periodic table into a kingdom and takes us riding through its hills and valleys to understand what makes it tick.

And, I'm kind of impressed. Mostly I remember the periodic table as a dull thing, mostly having to do with rote memorization rather than anything actually interesting. Atkins actually makes things interesting, dealing both with the history of the table and the discovery of the elements, through the final understanding of why things work the way they do and the dawn of
Brit Ta
Feb 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
Although the chemistry in this book is rather basic, the presentation is creative with the analogy of en earth like terrain. The diagrams wet extremely helpful for me in creating a spatial understanding of ionization energy, diameter, mass...etc. I teach physical science and came across his book in the classroom I inherited. I imagine the prior teacher thought this book would help high school Chem students, and I would agree. You'll probably be bored by it if you are a gem expert, but ...more
Jun 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
Atkins presents the trends in the periodic table in a comprehensive way describing this as a kingdom. He develops the concepts in chemistry, the attributes of the elements, alongside some of the history of working out the table as we have it. For those with a basic background in chemistry, Atkins pulls together many of the basic concepts and brings them into focus with the implications for use of the elements and the alliances they make, forms of bonds, and such. Quite enjoyable and elucidating.
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Peter Atkins is a fellow of Lincoln College, University of Oxford and the author of about 70 books for students and a general audience. His texts are market leaders around the globe. A frequent lecturer in the United States and throughout the world, he has held visiting professorships in France, Israel, Japan, China, and New Zealand. He was the founding chairman of the Committee on Chemistry ...more

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