Nature's Chemicals: The Natural Products that Shaped Our World

Author: Richard Firn (2010), Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK

Also available on Amazon.ca

A thorough and useful review of this book can be found in the Oxford Journal link. Each of the chapters is summarized. 

The title of this interesting book lead me to think of it as a possible biomimicry resource. The connection is not really as clear as the title might suggest. However, it is a fascinating book if you are interested in Natural Products, ethnobotany, biochemistry or the political history of Natural Products. Natural Products (NPs) are the chemicals and substances that characterize particular plant and microbial species. The evolutionary, scientific, political and historical angles prove to be an interesting way to learn about natural chemistry.

How might this apply to biomimicry?

As an example, I would suggest the section on page 141,

"How have organisms evolved to live in the chemically complex world?"

Answer: By avoiding a chemical through location or choice, reducing the concentration of a chemical through degradation and excretion, and isolation, adapting to a chemical and exploiting a chemical.

The overall strategies that Firn summarizes might help us with our understanding of natural strategies rather than the specific chemical details.  

Firn also talks about bioprospecting and conservation. By discussing how these chemicals work and their effect on human affairs, the author shows how important Natural Products are to our human activities. 

Each chapter ends with a few paragraphs answering the question "What does this chapter tell us about the way science works?" These concluding sections can be read on their own as summaries of the issues that evolved from the topics in the chapter and in each case provide much needed perspective on the material as it relates to human affairs. 

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