A World on Fire: A Heretic, an Aristocrat, and the Race to Discover Oxygen. Whew! With a mouthful of a title like that, itís no wonder that the book is about controversy and competition between an English scientist and a French aristocrat over who discovered oxygen first.
This is a particularly combustible (sorry, couldnít resist) question because it came at a time when England and France were less than bosom buddies. The irony is that the discovery actually derived in tandem from the original idea of Priestly, which was more accurately categorized by Lavoisier. Sadly, neither was rewarded much for their contribution to society; one had their home burned down and the other had (gulp) his head chopped off.
A World on Fire is an interesting, if at times plodding, read. There is good attention to detail with strong emphasis on historical research. Equally as interesting as the story of the discovery is the representation of a microcosm of the lesser known aspects of the 1770s.
If you like to learn about little-known things in order to impress (or, letís be honest, annoy) your friends, A World on Fire is an excellent choice.