David McConnell: The Last Book I Loved, The Story of Alchemy and the Beginnings of Chemistry

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I’m always hunting for great nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century histories. Something about those rolling, periodic sentences, the lofty diction, the Olympian “great man” narratives gives the books an air of eternal authority I love.

Compared to them, recent popular histories feel tentative, as if all we can do now is apply incessant conceptual tweaks to the work the Victorian titans of research have already done.

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