Periodic Table Of The Elements Turns 150

Dec 10, 2019

Maybe you've felt a certain chemistry with 2019 but don't know why? Maybe it's because this year marks the 150th anniversary of the Periodic Table of the Elements. It's considered the founding document of modern chemistry, one you may have studied in school.

UW-Madison professor of chemistry Bassam Shakhashiri knows both the history of the table, and its modern relevance. He says the table came about through a collaboration of a few scientists but that Dmitri Mendeleev properly gets much of the credit.

"Dimitri Mendeleev, the Russian chemist, he proposed — sometimes people say he discovered — the pattern of similar behavior [of certain elements] and arranged them," Shakhashiri explains.

On modern relevance, and how uses of the elements change, Shakhashiri cites lithium (symbol Li), in the table: "Lithium batteries are very useful to us. Lithium is also used in the medical profession, for a variety of things."

Shakhashiri also notes how lead (symbol Pb) has a less popular image than in Mendeleev's day. Nowadays, lead is often viewed as a contaminant in soil and water.

Support is provided by Dr. Lawrence and Mrs. Hannah Goodman for Innovation reporting.

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