THERESA LEVITT AT NOVEL: ELIXIR
In partnership with L’Alliance Francaise Memphis, join us as we welcome THERESA LEVITT on TUESDAY, DECEMBER 5 at 6:00 pm to celebrate her new book ELIXIR: A PARISIAN PERFUME HOUSE AND THE QUEST FOR THE SECRET OF LIFE.
ABOUT THE BOOK:
A story of alchemy in Bohemian Paris, where two scientific outcasts discovered a fundamental distinction between natural and synthetic chemicals that inaugurated an enduring scientific mystery.
For centuries, scientists believed that living matter possessed a special quality–a spirit or essence–that differentiated it from nonliving matter. But by the nineteenth century, the scientific consensus was that the building blocks of one were identical to the building blocks of the other. Elixir tells the story of two young chemists who were not convinced, and how their work rewrote the boundary between life and nonlife.
In the 1830s, Édouard Laugier and Auguste Laurent were working in Laugier Père et Fils, the oldest perfume house in Paris. By day they prepared the perfumery’s revitalizing elixirs and rejuvenating eaux, drawing on alchemical traditions that equated a plant’s vitality with its aroma. In their spare time they hunted the vital force that promised to reveal the secret to life itself. Their ideas, roundly condemned by established chemists, led to the discovery of structural differences between naturally occurring molecules and their synthetic counterparts, even when the molecules were chemically identical.
Scientists still can’t explain this anomaly, but it may point to critical insights concerning the origins of life on Earth. Rich in sparks and smells, brimming with eccentric characters, experimental daring, and the romance of the Bohemian salon, Elixir is a fascinating cultural and scientific history.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Theresa Levitt is the author of A Short Bright Flash: Augustin Fresnel and the Birth of the Modern Lighthouse. She is Professor of History at the University of Mississippi.
ABOUT L’ALLIANCE FRANCAISE MEMPHIS:
L’Alliance Française is a nongovernmental organization whose purpose is to promote French language and culture throughout the world. Created in Paris in 1883, it has more than 1,100 chapters in countries around the world. In the United States, the Alliance also has as a mission to promote understanding, exchange, and friendship between France, la Francophonie, and the USA. There are more than 140 chapters in the United States.
L’Alliance Française de Memphis was chartered in 1983 and offers cultural, educational and social activities for Francophones and Francophiles in the Mid-South region. We have more than 100 members, among them native French speakers, teachers, students, and people who are simply interested in some aspect of French and Francophone culture. L’Alliance Française de Memphis organizes monthly activities, normally from September through May. Some activities are conducted primarily in French, but others are open to both speakers and non-speakers of the language. We attempt to organize events that will have the broadest appeal for our members.
Learn more about L’Alliance Francaise Memphis here.