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The Mystery of Matter: Search for the Elements 

From early alchemists to those obsessed with the atom itself, the collective knowledge of centuries of bold thinkers and tinkerers constructed what is today the basis of modern chemistry. ... See full summary »
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2015  
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Michael Emerson ...  Narrator (uncredited) 3 episodes, 2015
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From early alchemists to those obsessed with the atom itself, the collective knowledge of centuries of bold thinkers and tinkerers constructed what is today the basis of modern chemistry. This is the story of the trailblazers whose curiosity about their world helped unlock some of natures best kept secrets. Written by e0state

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USA

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English

Release Date:

19 August 2015 (USA) See more »

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Moreno/Lyons Productions See more »
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Who would have thought learning about chemistry could be fun?
12 May 2016 | by PhidippidesSee all my reviews

This three-episode series on the history of the "search for the elements" is a fascinating exploration into what otherwise might be a rather dry topic. I was never really a fan of chemistry class growing up, so I was surprised by just how much I was drawn into this. I think it was so enjoyable because it presents one of the most basic quandaries in the universe - what is matter? - and goes through historical man's attempts to solve this with clear and thoughtful explanations.

The episodes bring us into the story at a moment in history (late 1700s) when the prevailing theory of phlogiston is about to be upended, thereby bringing humanity into the age of modern chemistry. Over time, we see how a handful of key figures are able to isolate various elements, study their properties, arrange them systematically in the periodic table, and uncover new and unusual elements through increasingly sophisticated methods. But this isn't just a purely scientific examination of the story; we also get to know the historical contexts in which these figures lived, as well as the personal and professional challenges they faced while making their discoveries.

Michael Emerson does a surprisingly good job as the narrator of this series, and the historical re-enactments are done with professional polish. The stories are accompanied by commentary from various experts who provide context for different discoveries, and on-screen graphics give much-needed visual assistance to help viewers understand the increasingly complex theories that are discussed.

Overall, this is an excellent series for anyone interested in the history of ideas.


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