In the tradition of Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel, this gives the very early history of how human ingenuity overcame the risk of famine through productive agriculture. Starting with a layman's guide to the chemistry of nitrogen fixation, the book goes on to show how humans emerged from nomadic lifestyles and began developing towns and settlements. When they for the first time began planting the same fields year after year, they noticed quickly the need to ensure soil fertility. But how? The method they came up with is still in use to this day.
"Leigh conveys a great deal of information in 220 pages of text, and does so in an easy-to-read, clear and accurate style. This is an altogether fine book."--Nature
"This is a detailed, scholarly, well-documented and illustrated work, intended for the layman but suitable for those interested in the history of agriculture, chemistry, and modern industry." --Choice
"I always like unusual tid-bits, asides and images, and Leigh's book has its share of them...Leigh conveys a great deal of information in the 220 pages of text, and does so in an easy to read, clear and accurate style. This is altogether a fine book." Nature
"Leigh conveys a great deal of information in 220 pages of text, and does so in an easy-to-read, clear and accurate style. This is an altogether fine book." Nature
"This is a story of guns and grain and for that matter productivity and pollution, because the nitrogen not taken up by crops is now fouling the world's waterways. This story with epic sweep, told perhaps not always with epic grace but with the sureness of a lifetime's scholarship." he Guardian
1: Nitrogen Fixation, Agriculture, and the Environment
2: The Development of Agriculture
3: The Development of English Agriculture and the Recognition of the Fertiliser Deficit
4: The Discovery of Nitrogen and the Disappearance of Alchemical Nitre
5: The Triumph of Industrial Chemistry
6: The Continuing Mystery of Biological Nitrogen Fixation
7: Nitrogen, Threat of Benefaction?