By Hugh Aldersey-Williams
Everything is made from them: the elements are the universal and fundamental ingredients of all matter.
But beyond the laboratory, released from the periodic table in which Dmitiri Mendeleev organised them according to the number of protons in their atoms, they reveal other meanings and tell other stories.
Hugh Aldersey-Williams explores 'the curious lives of the elements' through history, literature, science and art.
Mankind has always sought to venerate the rare and the precious, as well as being drawn magpie-like to that which is bright and shiny.
First it was gold and then it was platinum.
Reader : Michael Maloney
Abridged and Produced by Jill Waters
A Waters Company production for BBC Radio 4.
Hugh Aldersey-Williams explores the curious lives of the elements through history.