An enchanting biography of the most resonant – and most necessary – chemical element on Earth. Carbon. It is the building block of every cell that makes up every living thing. It is the essential component of the food we eat, the fuel we burn, the wood we use and the air we breathe. It is worth billions as a luxury and half a trillion as a necessity, but there are still mysteries to be solved about the element that can be both diamond and coal. Where does it come from, what does it do, and why, above all, does life need it? In Symphony in C, leading carbon scientist Robert M. Hazen takes us on a vibrant journey through the origin and evolution of life’s most widespread element. The story unfolds in four movements – Earth, Air, Fire and Water – and transports us through nearly 14 billion years of cosmic history, explaining how carbon is formed in the hearts of stars and why all life forms – earthbound or alien – use it as the basis of their biology. Symphony in C is a sweeping chronicle of carbon from its birth amidst the stars to its unknowable life cycle deep within the Earth’s core and its role in the evolution of all life in the universe.