In his customary lucid and engaging style, Isaac Asimov provides a look through the chemist’s eyes at the process upon which life in all its forms is utterly dependent.
Why is it that the earth’s food supply doesn’t run out? What is responsible for the replenishment of the atmosphere’s store of oxygen? How is sunlight transformed into usable energy?
In exploring these and other questions, Dr. Asimov clearly explains the vital processe of photosynthesis and traces the efforts of scientists to understand its role in the fundamental chemistry of life.
Eight years after the publication of Life and Energy in 1961, Asimov returns to the subject of biochemistry and does another adult book on the topic with lots of chemical diagrams and all that stuff. It is his usual impeccable job. Here the unique perspective of the book is giving a complete and thorough overview of the chemical and physical processes that create the food upon which we all live, from the fusion of hydrogen into helium in the sun to the creation (and consumption) of glucose on the Earth. Definitely a book not to be done without.
One interesting aside, by the way, in this story is a back-of-the-envelope calculation Asimov makes regarding the total amount of humanity the Earth could support. It doesn’t have much to do with the book, but it’s a solid argument and an interesting perspective on a problem about which Asimov felt strongly.