Form and Content
Isaac Asimov’s Building Blocks of the Universe is a compendium of facts suited to introducing the subject of chemistry to young readers. The book is divided into twenty-three chapters, each dealing at length with one element and in most cases more briefly with related elements. The first element covered is oxygen, because of its commonness on earth and its critical importance to life. The last chapter is devoted to uranium and the other unstable elements. The intermediate chapters are ordered based on such considerations as the element’s familiarity, commonness, significance to life, relation to elements already covered, and position on the periodic table.
The periodic table is used as a tool to organize what could otherwise appear to be disparate information. It is described in the introduction, and a version containing atomic numbers but not the names of the elements is reproduced at the beginning of the book. Another version, containing only the names of the elements, is printed at the end. The two versions serve to highlight the structure of the table and emphasize how the elements fit. Each chapter heading contains a simplified periodic table that includes only the atomic numbers relevant to that chapter. For several elements, Asimov describes the historic usefulness of the periodic table as a means of predicting the existence of unknown elements that were later discovered.
Each chapter is an account of interesting...
(The entire section is 482 words.)