The Emperor of Scent

The Emperor of Scent : A Story of Perfume, Obsession and the Last Mystery of the Senses

4.13 (1,393 ratings by Goodreads)
By (author) 

Free delivery worldwide

Available. Dispatched from the UK in 1 business day
When will my order arrive?


In the tradition of Susan Orlean's The Orchid Thief and James Gleick's Genius, The Emperor of Scent tells the story of Luca Turin, an utterly unusual, stubborn scientist, his otherworldly gift for perfume, his brilliant, quixotic theory of how we smell, and his struggle to set before the world the secret of the most enigmatic of our more

Product details

  • Paperback | 496 pages
  • 130 x 194 x 34mm | 340.2g
  • Cornerstone
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • w. ill.
  • 0099460238
  • 9780099460237
  • 82,505

Review quote

"The Emperor of Scent is a gem of a book- I was mesmerised and enlightened by the many perfect asides woven into the main body of this incredible true tale." -- Alexandra Fuller "With the contagious enthusiasm of a nerd given the run of a chemistry lab, he has transformed a chance meeting with a curious biophysicist named Luca Turin into an amusing and poetic adventure in science and art." Washington Post "Ebullient- a book that celebrates the randomness and arbitrariness of discovery while also translating complex science into the colloquial- as its title indicates, The Emperor of Scent presents a larger-than-life autocrat and his interesting, engaging eccentricities-an inspired, exhilarating view of idiosyncratic science" New York Times "Fascinating and lucid- the details of Turin's work unfold like a revelation. For his part, Burr does a fine job of turning both the science and the academic jockeying around a possible publication in Nature into a pulse-racing affair." New Yorker "A brilliant, feisty scientist at the center of a nasty, back-stabbing, utterly absorbing, cliff-hanging scramble for the Nobel Prize. The Emperor of Scent is a quirky, wonderful book." -- John Berendtshow more

About Chandler Burr

Chandler Burr is the author of A Separate Creation: The Search for the Biological Origins of Sexual Orientation. He has contributed to the Atlantic, was a Contributing Editor at US News & World Report, and has written for the New York Times Magazine, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and other publications. He lives in New more

Review Text

It was on the Eurostar Paris to London trip that the author met Luca Turin and was so fascinated by the scientist's account of his research that he asked permission to write a book about it. The obsession of the subtitle is Turin's passionate search for an explanation of the human ability to recognize and differentiate between different scents. As well as a theme and a strong central character a good story needs tension, and here it is provided by the reluctance of fellow scientists to acknowledge Turin's findings. It all began when Turin's delight in analysing smell led him to write a book describing the different perfumes on the market; this gave him an entry into the world of what the author calls the Big Boys, those who make their money from funding new perfumes and selling them; it also gave him access to the archives of those chemists involved in creating perfume. When Turin was offered a two-year contract by University College, London, he studied the existing theories of smell which suggested that the olfactory process was dependent on the shape of molecules. Turin became uneasy about this theory and when he chanced on an article about an electron tunnelling spectroscope he came up with his own idea which he called Vibration Theory. The BBC offered Luca Turin an opportunity to discuss this on a Horizon programme but the article he submitted to the top scientific journal, Nature, was turned down after peer reviews rejected it. He was ridiculed and shunned by those controlling invitations to conferences. The author states that Turin's detractors have refused to comment on the reasons for their coldness but he suggests that envy, vanity and cussedness may have something to do with it. Although Burr has written with coherence and lucidity, the complex passages explaining the scientific process are not easy for the general reader to fathom but every reader will enjoy the inside stories about perfume, about life at University College and the vivid accounts of Turin's triumphs and bitter clashes with colleagues. An eye-opener for those who thought that scientists were calm, fair and dispassionate. (Kirkus UK)show more

Rating details

1,393 ratings
4.13 out of 5 stars
5 40% (551)
4 39% (548)
3 17% (236)
2 3% (46)
1 1% (12)
Book ratings by Goodreads
Goodreads is the world's largest site for readers with over 50 million reviews. We're featuring millions of their reader ratings on our book pages to help you find your new favourite book. Close X