Scent: A Natural History of Fragrance
by Elise Vernon Pearlstine
Plants have long harnessed the chemical characteristics of aromatic compounds to shape the world around them. Frankincense resin from the genus Boswellia seals injured tissues and protects trees from invading pathogens. Jasmine produces a molecule called linalool that attracts pollinating moths with its flowery scent. Tobacco uses a similarly sweet-smelling compound called benzyl acetone to attract pollinators. Only recently in the evolutionary history of plants, however, have humans learned to co-opt their fragrances to seduce, heal, protect, and alter moods themselves.
In this wide-ranging and accessible new book, biologist-turned-perfumer Elise Vernon Pearlstine turns our human-centered perception of fragrance on its head and investigates plants' evolutionary reasons for creating aromatic molecules. Delving into themes of spirituality, wealth, power, addiction, royalty, fantasy, and more, Pearlstine uncovers the natural history of aromatic substances and their intersection with human culture and civilization.
Yale University Press, 2022, hardcover, 5.8 x 8.8 inches, 272 pages.