Hydrogen is the simplest of the elements, and is also the most abundant in the universe. Hence it is often studied by physicists and cosmologists. The stories of some of these investigations form the basis for John Rigden's book Hydrogen, the essential element
. Each chapter looks at the work of one scientist, or a small group, and explains how the work they did relates to this element. Thus we are taken through the development of quantum mechanics and see the technologies which this lead to such as nuclear magnetic resonance and atomic clocks. The last few chapters look at recent developments, such as Bose-Einstein condensates, antihydrogen and exotic hydrogen-like atoms.
One might expect a book entitled Hydrogen to be primarily about the chemistry, and indeed it is in the chemistry section of my local library. But this book has very little chemistry, rather it is primarily about the physics of hydrogen, with some chapters on cosmology.
I found that the linking of the different chapters to one element gave a central thread to the book, which made it more interesting than a sequence of unrelated essays. However, I still found it a bit dry, and possibly it is more suited to physics students wanting to learn some history of their subject, than to the general reader