Monkeys, Myths and Molecules | by Dr. Joe Schwarcz

Monkeys, Myths and Molecules: Separating Fact from Fiction in the Science of Everyday Life by Dr. Joe Schwarcz
(ECW Press, 2015, 293 pages)

This is an informative and entertaining book written by McGill University professor Joe Schwarcz. It’s a collection of short essays on science and how it applies to everyday practice. The author is a chemistry professor so the book covers more chemistry and biochemistry topics. The writing is smooth and clear and the explanations are straightforward. I’ll admit that I took great pleasure in reading “Dr. Oz Should Be Red-Faced over His Portrayal of Red Palm Oil as a Miracle.”

To engage readers, the author weaves history into many essays. I enjoyed reading how the Scottish doctor James Simpson discovered the anaesthetic properties of chloroform in 1847 and pioneered its use in surgery and childbirth. What a huge impact it made on medicine! If you are a fan of composers of classical music, you’ll appreciate the essay “Beethoven’s Poultice and Mozart’s Pork Chops.” Although the book is directed at general readers, I would have liked to see some sources. I’d be interested in reading the journal article published by the Viennese pathologist Dr. Christian Reiter about his analysis of Beethoven’s hair and bones. His article generated more speculations about the cause of Beethoven’s death. A bibliography would benefit the book greatly.

I highly recommend this book for science and history readers. It can also be used by college and high school students as an idea book for research papers of science topics.

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