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Chapter 10: Getting the Lead Out 
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 Chapter 10: Getting the Lead Out
Chapter 10: Getting the Lead Out

Please either use this thread to discuss the above referenced chapter of "A Short History of Nearly Everything" by Bill Bryson.



Mon Nov 28, 2016 11:53 pm
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Post Re: Chapter 10: Getting the Lead Out
In this chapter, Bryson describes the many facets of scientific discoveries and their impact on society. As we've seen in earlier chapters, new discoveries always bring with them a host of unpredictable changes. One example was in the person of Thomas Midgley who started out as an engineer but soon moved into the industrial application of chemistry. Midgley was responsible for discovering that tetraethyl lead significantly reduces engine knock in automobiles.

He then set about finding a replacement for the dangerous gases used in refrigeration at the time. His research led him to the discovery of chlorofluorcarbons or CCF's. Unfortunately there was a serious downside to both discoveries. The early factory workers working with lead, "began to exhibit the staggered gait and confused faculties that mark the recently poisoned". As I discovered with further research on the subject some workers even went insane from the fumes and ended up killing each other in psychotic rages. In addition, it was soon discovered that the high levels of lead were polluting the environment.

As to CCF's, it was fifty years before the discovery that they were devouring the ozone in the stratosphere.



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Wed Jan 04, 2017 5:46 pm
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Post Re: Chapter 10: Getting the Lead Out
There have been several unsung heroes so far in Bryson's book. This Clair Patterson is one I'd certainly never heard of and he was obscure even to people who should have known better. One authority pegged Clair as a woman, says Bryson. Patterson established through counting the number of lead isotopes in igneous rock, the age of the earth, finally. Then, he turned his attention to the growing amount of atmospheric lead and campaigned successfully for the removal of lead from gasoline. He should be enshrined somewhere, surely.



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