With 2019 coming to an end, unfortunately so is the International Year of the Periodic Table celebrating the discovery of the periodic table 150 years ago. Although nearly everyone has at least heard of the Periodic Table, be it from your chemistry class at High School or working with it daily like myself, the importance cannot be underestimated. Although you may think this table is pure chemistry, the understanding it has provided us of our world has found its way to numerous applications in physics, biology, and much more. Just take a moment to think about it; we have Xenon headlights in our cars, Lithium batteries in our phones and we require Oxygen to breathe.
The evolution of the Periodic Table
All this knowledge started with Dmitri Mendeleev, who began to group known elements based on their properties. With anecdotal stories claiming Dmitri played “chemical solitaire” on long train journeys, what we know is that he published two papers in 1869 relating properties of chemical elements to their atomic weight, thereby ‘discovering’ the Periodic Table. Back then there were 69 known elements and by 2019 this has grown to 118 and we’re not done learning and discovering. Scientists have predicted even more elements and are now trying to synthesize several of these elements with increasingly exotic names such as Unbibium and Unbihexium.
In my role as Product Manager X-ray Fluorescence (XRF) at Malvern Panalytical, I experience daily what the significance of the discovery of the periodic table has been. XRF is namely a technique that depends entirely on the understanding of the elements that the periodic table has helped us develop. Our customers use XRF to keep you healthy and safe, enable the construction of high-rise buildings and bridges as well as allow to produce the latest generation of phones and computer chips. So make sure that you recognize the significance of Mendeleev’s pioneering work in this International Year of the Periodic Table, just like I have!
P.S. We have a basic periodic table available for your convenience. Download it for free, you might need it periodically.
- Менделеев, Д. (1869). “Соотношение свойств с атомным весом элементов” [Relationship of elements’ properties to their atomic weights]. Журнал Русского Химического Общества (Journal of the Russian Chemical Society) (in Russian). 1: 60–77.
- Mendeleev, Dmitri (1869). “Ueber die Beziehungen der Eigenschaften zu den Atomgewichten der Elemente” [On the relations of elements’ properties to their atomic weights]. Zeitschrift für Chemie. 12: 405–406.