Chemical Elements Chart History, Part 1 of 2

(History of the Chemical Elements Table)

The Periodic Table of Chemical Elements Originated about 200 Years Ago!

“The first periodic table was developed by Russsian chemist, Dimitri Ivanovich Mendeleev, in February, 1869.
—Eric R. Scerri, in Scientific American,
September, 1998

The periodic table of the elements is one of the most powerful icons in science: a single document that consolidates much of our knowledge of chemistry.

  • A version hangs on the wall of nearly every chemical laboratory and lecture hall in the world.
  • Indeed, nothing quite like it exists in the other disciplines of science.
  • The story of the periodic system for classifying the elements can be traced back over 200 years.
  • The periodic table of the elements is one of the most powerful icons in science: a single document that consolidates much of our knowledge of chemistry.

  • Throughout its long history, the periodic table has been disputed, altered, and improved as science has progressed and as new elements have been discovered.
  • Despite the dramatic changes that have taken place in science over the past century; namely, the development of the theories of relativity and quantum mechanics, there has been no revolution in the basic nature of the periodic system.
  • In some instances, new findings initially appeared to call into question the theoretical foundations of the periodic table, but each time scientists eventually managed to incorporate the results while preserving the table's fundamental structure.
  • The term "periodic" reflects the fact that the elements show patterns in their chemical properties in certain regular intervals.
  • Were it not for the simplification provided by this chemical-elements chart, students of chemistry would need to learn the properties of all 112 known elements.
  • Fortunately, the periodic table allows chemists to function by mastering the properties of a handful of typical elements; all the others fall into so-called groups or families with similar chemical properties.
  • Historians usually consider one event as marking the formal birth of the modern periodic table: on February 17, 1869, a Russian professor of chemistry, Dimitri Ivanovich Mendeleev, completed the first of his numerous periodic charts.
  • It included 63 known elements arranged according to increasing atomic weight; Mendeleev also left spaces for as yet undiscovered elements for which he predicted atomic weights.
  • Prior to Mendeleev's discovery, however, other scientists had been actively developing some kind of organizing system to describe the elements.
  • In 1787, for example, French chemist Antoine Lavoisier, working with Antoine Fourcroy, Louis-Bernard Guyton de Morveau and Claude-Louis Berthollet, devised a list of the thirty-three elements known at the time.
  • The power of the modern table lies in its two, or even three, dimensional display of all the known elements (and even the ones yet to be discovered) in a logical system of precisely ordered rows and columns.
  • In an early attempt to organize the elements into a meaningful array, German chemist Johann Döbereiner pointed out in 1817 that many of the known elements could be arranged by their similarities into groups of three, which he called triads.
  • Döbereiner singled out triads of the elements lithium, sodium, and potassium as well as chlorine, bromine and iodine.
  • He noticed that if the three members of a triad were ordered according to their atomic weights, the properties of the middle element fell in between those of the first and third elements.
  • For example, lithium, sodium and potassium all react vigorously with water; but lithium, the lightest of the triad, reacts more mildly than the other two, whereas the heaviest of the three, potassium, explodes violently.
  • In 1857, French chemist Jean-Baptiste-André Dumas turned away from the idea of triads and focused instead on devising a set of mathematical equations that could account for the increase in atomic weight among several groups of chemically similar elements.
  • As chemists now recognize, any attempt to establish an organizing pattern based on an element's atomic weight will not succeed, because atomic weight is not the fundamental property that characterizes each of the elements.
  • Periodic Properties

  • The crucial characteristic of Mendeleev's system was that it illustrated a periodicity, or repetition, in the properties of the elements at certain regular intervals.
  • This feature had been observed previously in an arrangement of elements by atomic weight devised in 1862 by French geologist Alexandre-Emile Béguyer de Chancourtois.
  • The system relied on a fairly intricate geometric configuration: de Chancourtois positioned the elements according to increasing atomic weight along a spiral inscribed on the surface of a cylinder and inclined at forty-five degrees from the base.

Chemical elements list The knowledge in this article is applicable to the Chemical Elements List where you will find considerable information about their histories and other facts.

Chemical elements chart history Chemical-Elements Chart History, Part 2 of 2, continues here.