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Each week on TestTubePlus, we pick one topic and cover it from multiple angles. This three-episode, mini-series is going to be taking a deeper look at the periodic table of elements. Over the next three shows, host Trace Dominguez will be talking about how it came to be and changed the course of modern science and chemistry. Tomorrow's episode will talk about why Dimitri Bonavich Mendeleiv, the eccentric Russian scientist who first published the periodic table, was such a visionary. The third and final episode describes who's "in charge" of the table, why some elements have such crazy names, and what happens is a new element is discovered. To kick the series off, today's episode focuses on how the table came to be, and what it might have ended up looking like if things didn't fall into place quite the way they did.
Anyone who's ever been in a chemistry classroom is surely familiar with the periodic table of elements. At first glance, it's a list of all the elements in the universe, their symbols, atomic weights, and some properties about each one. But it's much more than just that: it's a tool that allows chemists to predict chemical reactions, find relationships between elements, a guide to the each element's properties, and even can predict an element and it's properties that have yet to be discovered.
Attempts to understand and classify what everything is made of go back to ancient Greece, when in 330 BCE, Aristotle created the first table of elements. His only consisted of four: earth, air, fire, and water, but it was a start. In the 1700, Parisian chemist Antoine Lavoisier classified all of the 33 known elements at the time as either metals and nonmetals (many of the elements on his list were actually compounds). By the 1800's, chemists had identified 63 elements, and they started noticing patterns in their chemical and physical properties. Over the next hundred years, a number of chemists tried different methods of categorizing the elements. In 1863, John Newlands noticed that similar elements existed by some multiple of eight in atomic weight. In 1868, German chemists Lothar Meyer created a table of elements that's pretty similar to the periodic table we use today: it listed all elements by atomic weight and demonstrated their working patterns. He submitted to a colleague for feedback, which in retrospect might have been a mistake. It was while he was waiting for his colleague to get back to him that Mendeleev published his version of the periodic table of elements, which is the gold standard that scientists have been using ever since. We'll be discussing why it was so perfect in tomorrow's episode, so stay tuned!
TestTube Plus is built for enthusiastic science fans seeking out comprehensive conversations on the geeky topics they love. Each week, host Trace Dominguez probes deep to unearth the details, latest developments, and opinions on big topics like boobs, porn, the ocean, stereotypes, fear, survival, dreams, space travel, and many more.
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The Origins of the Periodic Table (MentalFloss.com)
"To be fair, Mendeleev's thought process also appears to have been a little bit different than Meyer's. After noticing several patterns, he decided to create a card for each of the 63 known elements that would include the symbol, atomic weight, and chemical and physical properties. He arranged the cards on a table in order of atomic weight and grouped elements with similar properties."
History of the Development of the Periodic Table of Elements (BPC.edu)
"Before written history, people were aware of some of the elements in the periodic table. Elements such as gold (Au), silver (Ag), copper (Cu), lead (Pb), tin (Sn), and mercury (Hg). It wasn't until 1649, however, until the first element was discovered through scientific inquiry by Hennig Brand . That element was phosphorous (P). By 1869, 63 elements had been discovered."