Coming August 2018

Periodic Tales: A Cultural History of the Elements, From Arsenic to Zinc

Hosted by Professor Tom Miller

By Hugh Aldersey-Williams

Professor Tom Miller

Tom Miller was born in San Diego, California and grew up in College Station, Texas. After completing his undergraduate degree at Texas A&M University, he attended graduate school in the UK on a British Marshall Scholarship and received his Ph.D. from Oxford University in 2005, working with David Clary and David Manolopoulos. Tom then returned to the US for a postdoctoral fellowship at UC Berkeley to work with David Chandler and Bill Miller. He joined the faculty of the California Institute of Technology in 2008 and was promoted to full professor in 2013. While at Caltech, Tom has received awards that include the Sloan Research Fellowship, NSF CAREER Award, Associated Students of Caltech Teaching Award, Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award, and the 2015 ACS Early-Career Award in Theoretical Chemistry.


Like the alphabet, the calendar, or the zodiac, the periodic table of the chemical elements has a permanent place in our imagination. But aside from the handful of common ones (iron, carbon, copper, gold), the elements themselves remain wrapped in mystery. We do not know what most of them look like, how they exist in nature, how they got their names, or of what use they are to us. Unlocking their astonishing secrets and colorful pasts, Periodic Tales is a passionate journey through mines and artists’ studios, to factories and cathedrals, into the woods and to the sea to discover the true stories of these fascinating but mysterious building blocks of the universe.

~From the back cover of Periodic Tales