Associate Professor Arkady Kuramshin's book was shown to the public at the Natural History Museum of Tatarstan on September 14th.
The pun in the book title is immediately recognized by most of the Russian citizens. “Lives of Remarkable People” is a widely known biographical book series which started in 1890 in the Russian Empire, survived through the whole Soviet history and exists to this day. Over 1,000 volumes have been published so far. At the height of its popularity during Soviet times the series was so treasured by bibliophiles that in some cases the collections could be traded for automobiles or even, according to some urban legends, real estate.
Many attendants had already known Dr. Kuramshin from his popular science lectures, articles on Elementy.ru, and radio broadcasts. His colleagues from the Institute of Chemistry also came to support.
As the author told the audience, the idea came to him during a sick leave in 2011 – he injured his leg and couldn't get out of the apartment for a month. So he started a blog about chemistry which quickly gathered followers. In the course of several months, over 1,000 people subscribed. Finally, in early 2017 a publishing house from Moscow contacted Dr. Kuramshin and offered a book deal.
"Lives of Remarkable Compounds" came out on July 10th, 2017, and two thousand of the four thousand copies sold out before the end of the month, with the rest of the stock depleted before the end of August. According to the author’s words, the publishers were very surprised by such popularity – July is traditionally a slow month for any book, let alone a popular science one. In the end, three thousand more copies were issued in September.
Dr. Kuramshin hypothesized that the popularity is mostly caused by a lack of popular chemistry books in Russian; and those which are available are mostly translations. He said that he just wanted to speak about compounds which he found remarkable, without any sensationalism.
“Lives of Remarkable Devices” will be the next in the series, to be ready as early as this December. Dr. Kuramshin is sure that it will also gain traction because it won’t require any special education to comprehend.