368 pages, 57 halftones, 17 line illus
The periodic table is one of the most potent icons in science. It lies at the core of chemistry and embodies the most fundamental principles of the field. The one definitive text on the development of the periodic table by van Spronsen (1969), has been out of print for a considerable time. The present book provides a successor to van Spronsen, but goes further in giving an evaluation of the extent to which modern physics has, or has not, explained the periodic system. The book is written in a lively style to appeal to experts and interested lay-persons alike.
The Periodic Table begins with an overview of the importance of the periodic table and of the elements and it examines the manner in which the term 'element' has been interpreted by chemists and philosophers. The book then turns to a systematic account of the early developments that led to the classification of the elements including the work of Lavoisier, Boyle and Dalton and Cannizzaro. The precursors to the periodic system, like Dobereiner and Gmelin, are discussed. In chapter 3 the discovery of the periodic system by six independent scientists is examined in detail.
Two chapters are devoted to the discoveries of Mendeleev, the leading discoverer, including his predictions of new elements and his accommodation of already existing elements. Chapters 6 and 7 consider the impact of physics including the discoveries of radioactivity and isotopy and successive theories of the electron including Bohr's quantum theoretical approach. Chapter 8 discusses the response to the new physical theories by chemists such as Lewis and Bury who were able to draw on detailed chemical knowledge to correct some of the early electronic configurations published by Bohr and others.
Chapter 9 provides a critical analysis of the extent to which modern quantum mechanics is, or is not, able to explain the periodic system from first principles. Finally, chapter 10 considers the way that the elements evolved following the Big Bang and in the interior of stars. The book closes with an examination of further chemical aspects including lesser known trends within the periodic system such as the knight's move relationship and secondary periodicity, as well at attempts to explain such trends.
Every chemist should read this book. It will also prove valuable for those who teach chemistry. By writing this book Scerri has done us a significant service. Chemical Educator, Volume 12. No.6, 2007 Strangely, relatively few books have been devoted to it, [the Periodic Table] which makes Scerri's particularly welcome - all the more so since not only does he recount events leading up to its discovery, but also analyses its underlying meaning and implications.' John Emsley, TLS This is undoubtedly a book that every practising chemist and chemistry educator should read because of its far-reaching implications for understanding the nature of the periodic law and the challenges it presents to contemporary portrayals of the Periodic Table.' Kevin Berg, Newsletter of International History, Philosophy and Science Teaching Group ...the quality is not merely skin deep, there is a real scholarship inside...I would have been proud to have written this book rather than just contributing one image. Gordon Woods, Education in Chemistry, A book that is truly the definitive work in its field: The Periodic Table by Scerri. Foundations of Chemistry, Vol 9, 2007 It is an essential item on every chemist's bookshelf. Foundations of Chemistry, Vol 9, 2007 To a chemist, the periodic table is a tool and Leitmotif in the same way that word and letters are the trade of the literary world. Like most tools, constant use and exposure tends to make one blase about the inherent and intellectual beauty. In this book, Eric Scerri manages to walk the delicate balance between academic rigor and a gripping story in presenting the history and philosophy of the periodic table. This is a book that anyone with an interest in science in general and chemistry in particular should read. Ed Constable, Switzerland, Amazon UK, ...well written and represents a valuable new compilation of existing knowledge on the subject. Denis Rouvray, Chemistry World, 1 May 2007 Eric Scerri is something of a rara avis. Scerri's philosophical orientation enriches the text by raising a number of thought-provoking issues ... The book under review here is clearly and engagingly written and meticulously researched with 42 pages of notes. Journal of Chemical Education, 2007.
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