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)
  • Hardback
By (author) 

List price: US$16.65

Currently unavailable

Add to wishlist

AbeBooks may have this title (opens in new window).

Try AbeBooks


Patrick Susskind's novel Perfume made real - the true history of a scientific genius with eerie powers of smell who uses his gifts to solve one of the body's last secrets: how the nose works. Luca Turin was born with an uncannily powerful nose, able to distinguish the components of any scent, from the world's most refined perfumes to the air on the New York subways. A scientist, he kept his powers to himself, concentrating on other fields. But when, for the love of it, he began to write reviews of fragrances, and those reviews took the world by storm, everything changed. The secret world of scent creation opened up, and Turin discovered something astonishing: No one understands how our noses work. Billions and billions of dollars are spent creating the scents all around us in a manner that amounts to a glorified trial and error. The solution to the mystery of every other human sense had led to a Nobel Prize. Why should smell be any different? Turin has given his life to this great riddle. And in the end, incredibly, after an epic struggle, he solved it. Then things got really interesting...Chandler Burr tells the extraordinary story of Luca Turin, his incredible sense of smell anshow more

Product details

  • Hardback | 496 pages
  • 134.62 x 187.96 x 43.18mm | 521.63g
  • Cornerstone
  • William Heinemann Ltd
  • London, United Kingdom
  • 0434011568
  • 9780434011568

About Chandler Burr

Chandler Burr is the author of A Separate Creation: The Search for the Biological Origins of Sexual Orientation. He lives in Parisshow 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
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