History of the Periodic Table

By Monique Burt

In The Beginning

Do you ever wonder where did elements come from?

Well, the answer to that is, elements were formed from exploding stars. Everything you see around you are made up of elements. Even we are made up of elements. It is hard to believe we are made up of the same stuff that once was a star.

Ancient civiliztaions knew about elements. They easily found copper, gold and silver. These were used for jewelry. They had also found Mercury, which they believed made you live longer so the rich and powerful would drink it, unfortunately what they didn't know is that it is deadly to drink/eat.

Ancient Greeks believed there was only four elements that made up the world. They were earth, air, water and fire.

First Attempts

In 1649, Hennig Brand was trying like many other scientists of his time to extract gold from the human body. The most obvious way to do this was through urine. When he had gathered enough urine he boiled it until it turned into a paste. He then heated it until smoke appeared and it burned brightly and violently. Hennig had acciedntly discovered Phosphorus. It was the first element to be discovered.

In 1778, Antoine Lavoisier made the first extensive list of the elements of his time (there were 33). He seperated them into metals and non-metals. He was the first to try and put the puzzle of elements together.

In 1828, Jakob Berzelius developed a table of atomic weights and introduced letter symbols for each element very simialr to what we use today. In doing these experiments he discovered many new elements. Some being cerium, selenium and thorium.

In 1864, John Newlands arranged the 56 elements of his time into 11 groups, based on their characteristics and atomic weights.

'Father of the Periodic Table'

In 1869, Dmitri Mendeleev created the first periodic table. He arranged the elements in ascending order according to their atomic weights and grouped them according to their charateristics. Mendeleev predicted the discovery of other elements and left spaces for them in his table.

The story is that he stayed up three days and three nights trying to come up with a way to arrange the elements. He fell into a deep sleep and dreamt up the periodic table and elements that hadn't even been discovered yet.

The original table has been modified many times over the years, however Mendeleev is called the 'Father of the Periodic Table' because he created the basis of the periodic table. It helped with the discovery of isotopes and rare gases.