The Beauty of Chemistry

The Beauty of Chemistry

Art, Wonder, and Science

By Philip Ball

Images and text capture the astonishing beauty of the chemical processes that create snowflakes, bubbles, flames, and other wonders of nature.





Images and text capture the astonishing beauty of the chemical processes that create snowflakes, bubbles, flames, and other wonders of nature.

Chemistry is not just about microscopic atoms doing inscrutable things; it is the process that makes flowers and galaxies. We rely on it for bread-baking, vegetable-growing, and producing the materials of daily life. In stunning images and illuminating text, this book captures chemistry as it unfolds. Using such techniques as microphotography, time-lapse photography, and infrared thermal imaging, The Beauty of Chemistry shows us how chemistry underpins the formation of snowflakes, the science of champagne, the colors of flowers, and other wonders of nature and technology. We see the marvelous configurations of chemical gardens; the amazing transformations of evaporation, distillation, and precipitation; heat made visible; and more.

The visuals in The Beauty of Chemistry are drawn from the online exhibition Envisioning Chemistry created by Wenting Zhu and Yan Liang in collaboration with the Chinese Chemical Society. These striking images are accompanied by accessible, engaging explanations by award-winning science writer Philip Ball.


$49.95 T ISBN: 9780262044417 392 pp. | 8 in x 9 in 354 color illus.


  • Far from portraying a routine lab procedure, this collection showcases chemistry's excitement and aesthetic allure.

    Scientific American

  • With atomic clarity, science writer Philip Ball narrates this visual tour through the under-appreciated chemical beauty that surrounds us...


  • Ball's scintillating book is a paean to chemical beauty in nature and laboratories, with lavish images created by Wenting Zhu, Yan Liang and the Chinese Chemical Society...



  • “Philip Ball is a serendipitous writer, pursuing adventurous science. He loves to persuade and enchant his readers to celebrate the uncanny beauty of chemistry.”

    Dudley Herschbach

    Nobel Laureate in Chemistry, Harvard University

  • “This book combines rich descriptions of chemical phenomena with stunning photography of them as they happen. As a child, I was drawn to chemistry by the wonders of precipitating powders, fizzy water, and other ever-present phenomena. The Beauty of Chemistry took me back to those times.”

    Alán Aspuru-Guzik

    Professor of Chemistry and Computer Science, University of Toronto

  • Ousiophiles unite! This book is a sensory feast that truly brings to life the 'chemical sublime,' presenting it joyfully, with scintillating images. Using remarkably concise language, Ball pleasingly telescopes in scale from the visible to the subatomic level, giving a rich dimensional exploration of the elements and their properties. This book sparkles, bubbles, and bursts with the activity of all that surrounds us. It is curiosity-igniting, deeply satisfying, and a must for anyone who delights in 'stuff.'”

    Martha Willette Lewis

    Visual Artist in Residence, The Yale Quantum Institute

  • “Philip Ball offers a lively illustrated conversation centered on the beauty of chemistry rather than its oft-examined utility. His observations meander gracefully through bubbles, flames, plant pigments, and much more, and will both captivate a wide audience and provide a refreshingly upbeat boost for the most jaded professional.”

    Hagan Bayley

    Professor of Chemical Biology, University of Oxford

  • “This book captures the aesthetics, not the mess, the mystery, not the complexity, and most of all the fundamental importance of chemistry to our everyday lives. It shows why chemists are really the musicians of matter.”

    Leroy Cronin

    Regius Professor of Chemistry at the University of Glasgow


  • Choice 2021 Outstanding Academic Title