Elixir : A Story of Perfume, Science and the Search for the Secret of Life


Author: Levitt, Theresa Published 01/02/2024 | Paperback / softback
197 x 129 x 24 | 230g

ISBN: 9781399803250 Category:

A FINANCIAL TIMES HISTORY BOOK OF THE YEARA STRONG WORDS TOP 50 BOOKS OF THE YEAR’Dizzying and fragrant . . . truly a captivating achievement!’ Aimee Nezhukumatathil’If you read this book you will be changed . . . this book feels like an actual elixir’ Kiese Laymon’A fascinating tale of discovery, wonder, and revolution’ Matthew StanleyTwo friends in a Parisian perfume shop make a discovery that will transform our

understanding of the world and the origins of life on Earth forever.

Set amidst the unforgettable sights and smells of 18th and

19th Century Paris, Elixir tells the story of

Edouard Laugier and Auguste Laurent, the son of a perfumer and a fellow

aspiring chemist, who met on the Left Bank while pursuing their passion for

science. Spurned by the scientific establishment, the pair ended up working out

of Edouard’s family perfume shop, Laugier père et fils. By

day they prepared the revitalizing elixirs and rejuvenating eaux it was

famous for, but by night using the ingredients of the perfumery and the

principles of alchemy, they pursued the secret of life itself.

Elixir reads like a novel, brimming with eccentric characters,

experimental daring, and the romance of the Bohemian salon. It is the story

of a long-standing scientific puzzle and the struggle to gain acceptance for

a new way of thinking about the building blocks of living matter long after

those who discovered it were both dead. Yet this is also a story of hope

and determination. For while the scientific establishment ridiculed their

work at the time, teenage lab assistant Louis Pasteur took it seriously and

over the course of an exceptional career, was able to show that their work

pointed to a deep, inexplicable asymmetry in the molecular arrangement of

living things – an unexplained asymmetry which remains one of science’s great


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