"I enjoyed this book hugely. It is clever and quirky and it delivers what it promises; it brings to life the science of life and human nature in a fascinating and highly relevant account."
Professor Laura Bowater, author of The Microbes Fight Back; Antibiotic Resistance
"This book is an insightful, engaging, and well-documented account of the chemistry of life and what makes us humans. I haven't seen another book like it!"
Patrice Pages, former editor ChemMatters, American Chemical Society
"The Chemistry of Human Nature is an in-depth and wide-ranging exploration into [the] essence of mankind's qualities, strengths and weaknesses. There are few books out there which so clearly outline the biochemistry of the human body for the average reader."
Vinay Mandagere, editor-in-chief Black Bag, University of Bristol medsoc
"Always relating the complex science to human stories whilst never shying away from technical detail, this book provides perfect reading for those with an interest in why we are how we are."
Dr Oliver Wilkinson, researcher University of Bristol
I fell in love with chemistry during a course designed to explain hardcore science in the context of how it actually relates to our lives, which is exactly what I have done in The Chemistry of Human Nature.
Each chapter begins with a human interest slant before delving into the underlying chemistry. For example Chapter 2 tells the story of how chocolate evolved from a tea-like beverage to the delicious treat we enjoy today. One of the best twists in this story is how Joseph Fry invented the chocolate bar by recombining the ingredients that his predecessor Coenraad Johannes Van Houten has laboured to separate. The chapter goes on to explain the evolutionary significance of the tastes we enjoy before finally introducing the complex molecular machinery that signals our brains to reward us when our tongues taste the nutrients that keep us alive. Not only is this chemical story interesting in its own right, but it also sets up the reader with an understanding of important proteins - such a receptors - which are bigwigs in the science of being human. In this way the reader is equipped with the fundamentals necessary to understand the mind-blowing chemistry of being human.
I am a science writer and chemistry teacher with an obsessive passion for pitching chemistry in intriguing contexts.
One thing that was fun about writing The Chemistry of Human Nature was that my behaviour would reflect the ideas I was writing about. I was constantly abandoning my post at the British Library to go and buy a chocolate bar or slice of cake, which felt especially significant when I was writing the chapter on pleasure. Meanwhile some parts of the book felt quite bleak and I would often end up in heated discussions with friends who resented the idea of boiling down the wonders of human culture to a mere chemical reaction. But in the end it was comforting to see how life went on in spite of the knowledge. All those times I toddled off in search of chocolate, I could explain in detail that I was comfort eating, chasing an opioid hit by devouring nutrients that would serve the interests of my self-replicating genes. But not once did that knowledge mar my enjoyment of these ill-deserved treats. No matter how well we understand the nuts and bolts of our behaviour, chocolate still tastes like chocolate, and I take great comfort in that.