The periodic table of elements, first encountered by many of us at school, provides an arrangement of the chemical elements, ordered by their atomic number, electron configuration, and recurring chemical properties, and divided into periodic trends. In this Very Short Introduction Eric Scerri looks at the trends in properties of elements that led to the construction of the table, and shows how the deeper meaning of the table's structure gradually became apparent with the development of atomic theory and, in particular, quantum mechanics, which underlies the behaviour of all of the elements and their compounds.
This new edition, publishing in the International Year of the Periodic Table, celebrates the completion of the seventh period of the table, with the ratification and naming of elements 113, 115, 117, and 118 as nihonium, moscovium, tennessine, and oganesson. Eric Scerri also incorporates new material on recent advances in our understanding of the origin of the elements, as well as developments concerning group three of the periodic table.
2: Atomic weight, Triads and Prout
3: Steps towards the periodic table
4: Triumph of a Russian genius
5: The impact of the new physics
6: How the electron explains the periodic table
7: How chemists reacted
8: Quantum Mechanics makes further advances
9: Forged in the stars
10: Back to chemistry
11: Why so many tables? Which is best?
Eric Scerri is a lecturer at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the founder and editor-in-chief of Foundations of Chemistry, a journal covering the history and philosophy of chemistry, and chemical education. He has authored over 100 articles in peer-reviewed journals and many articles in popular science magazines, including Scientific American, American Scientist, and Cosmos, among others. His books include A Tale of Seven Scientists and A New Philosophy of Science (Oxford University Press, 2016), and A Tale of Seven Elements (Oxford University Press, 2013).
"In the 150 years since Mendeleev unveiled his periodic table, much has been written about chemistry's iconic organizing system. But for a concise and up-to-the-moment summary of the table's origins, significance and continuing growth, Eric Scerri's introduction can't be bettered."
– Philip Ball, science writer and author
"A masterful and readable account of an iconic symbol of science."
– John Emsley, chemist and popular science writer