Elixir

by Theresa Levitt

£12.99

Science; Biography

Paperback

9781399803250

Published by John Murray Press

Published February 2024

Books > Biography > Science

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

Two 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 mysteries.

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