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In the tradition of Susan Orlean's The Orchid Thief and James Gleick's Genius, The Emperor of Scent tells the story of Luca Turin, an utterly unusual, stubborn scientist, his otherworldly gift for perfume, his brilliant, quixotic theory of how we smell, and his struggle to set before the world the secret of the most enigmatic of our senses.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780099460237
ISBN-10: 0099460238
Format: Paperback
(198mm x 130mm x 30mm)
Pages: 496
Imprint: Arrow Books Ltd
Publisher: Cornerstone
Publish Date: 4-Mar-2004
Country of Publication: United Kingdom


UK Kirkus Review » It was on the Eurostar Paris to London trip that the author met Luca Turin and was so fascinated by the scientist's account of his research that he asked permission to write a book about it. The obsession of the subtitle is Turin's passionate search for an explanation of the human ability to recognize and differentiate between different scents. As well as a theme and a strong central character a good story needs tension, and here it is provided by the reluctance of fellow scientists to acknowledge Turin's findings. It all began when Turin's delight in analysing smell led him to write a book describing the different perfumes on the market; this gave him an entry into the world of what the author calls the Big Boys, those who make their money from funding new perfumes and selling them; it also gave him access to the archives of those chemists involved in creating perfume. When Turin was offered a two-year contract by University College, London, he studied the existing theories of smell which suggested that the olfactory process was dependent on the shape of molecules. Turin became uneasy about this theory and when he chanced on an article about an electron tunnelling spectroscope he came up with his own idea which he called Vibration Theory. The BBC offered Luca Turin an opportunity to discuss this on a Horizon programme but the article he submitted to the top scientific journal, Nature, was turned down after peer reviews rejected it. He was ridiculed and shunned by those controlling invitations to conferences. The author states that Turin's detractors have refused to comment on the reasons for their coldness but he suggests that envy, vanity and cussedness may have something to do with it. Although Burr has written with coherence and lucidity, the complex passages explaining the scientific process are not easy for the general reader to fathom but every reader will enjoy the inside stories about perfume, about life at University College and the vivid accounts of Turin's triumphs and bitter clashes with colleagues. An eye-opener for those who thought that scientists were calm, fair and dispassionate. (Kirkus UK)

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Author Biography - Chandler Burr

Chandler Burr is the author of A Separate Creation: The Search for the Biological Origins of Sexual Orientation. He has contributed to the Atlantic, was a Contributing Editor at US News & World Report, and has written for the New York Times Magazine, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and other publications. He lives in New York.

Books By Author Chandler Burr

Dior Perfumes by Chandler Burr

Dior Perfumes

Hardback, September 2014
You or Someone Like You by Chandler Burr

You or Someone Like You

Paperback, September 2011
Perfect Scent by Chandler Burr

The Perfect Scent

Paperback / softback,

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