Chapter 14: Artistic Elements

By: Katie Burns


In the chapter, the elements on the periodic table are given a new light, not just for being found at home within the Earth but for playing vital parts in industrialization and in the human body. The life of Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe was told and his love of science which he showed through works of literature. Now, because of new scientific discoveries, Goethe's works are now mainly remembered for their literature and not scientific value. Though he made many contributions his biggest accomplishment was bringing in J.W Dobereiner on a theory about the way colors work. J.W Dobereiner who was inexperienced in the field at the time ended up founding the pillars of elements which fifty years later led to the discovery of the periodic table.

The six elements highlighted in chapter fourteen are: Lithium, Strontium, Ruthenium, Praseodymium, Dysprosium, and Radium. These elements were shown in unimaginable ways as their capabilities and effects on people were brought to life. in 1941, the so called greatest pen of all time was created, the Parker 51. With such a sleek design and beauty the pen was highly sought after. The pen, however, had one flaw. The gold tip on the end would wear down after use. So after the hard work of a metallurgists from Yale the perfect metal was found for the infamous pen, ruthenium. Until now the metal had been useless (Chapter 14, 246). Art comes from good and bad. Art can come from talent and skill but some of the best art can come from pure madness. Robert Lowell was a beautiful poet while being considered completely mad. He then blamed his downward slide of quality of work due to him being perscribed Lithium to help treat his madness. When his madness was gone so was the poetry. Mark Twain, one of the greatest writers of all time also used science to influence his work. In Sold To Satan, Satan is made entirely of radium. Using the characteristics of Radium he also founded the personality and characteristics of Satan.


Symbol: Li

Atomic Number: 3

Atomic Mass: 6.941 amu

Electron Configuration: 1s^2 2s^1

Found by Johann Arfvedson in 1817, the alkali metal Lithium was found in Sweden. Lithium occurs naturally by having electric charge pass through lithium chloride.Named after the greek root "lithos" meaning stone lithium has many uses with aiding the creation of batteries and treating many disorders such as ADHD, depression, and Schizophrenia (Bentor, 2016). All of the elements in group one, where lithium is located, react with water creating hydroxide ions and alkaline solutions (Bentor, 2016).


Symbol: Sr

Atomic Number: 38

Atomic Mass: 87.62 amu

Electron Configuration: 1s^2 2s^2 2p^6 3s^2 3p^6 4s^2 3d^10 4p^s 5s^2

Strontium was discovered in 1790 by Adair Crawford in Scotland. Strontium was named after the Scottish town it was found in, Strotian (Bentor, 2016). It is widely known for its help in creating sugar from sugar beet in the 19th century. Though it can occur naturally, the alkaline earth metal is more widely used in it's radioactive synthetic forms. Strontium is known for turning a pale yellow color when exposed to air (Lee,2016). Now, Strontium is used more for its purpose in fireworks and visual effects. Elements found in group two are usually softer and less metallic than those found in group two.


Symbol: Ru

Atomic Number: 44

Atomic Mass: 101.07 amu

Electron Configureation: 1s^2 2s^2 2p^6 3s^2 3p^6 4s^2 3d^10 4p^6 5s^2 3d^6

Discovered in 1844 by Karl Klous in Russia which it is named after the Russian word, Ruthenia (Bentor, 2016). The transition metal is mainly used in electronics and platinum alloys. As it occurs in nature it is found in pentlandite and pyroxinite (Lee, 2016). Most transition metals in group eight are silver/white metallic, hard, and have high boiling points. Two of which, ruthenium and osmium, are two of the rarest metals on earth and mainly found in platinum ores in small amounts (Lee, 2016).


Symbol: Pr

Atomic Number: 59

Atomic Mass: 140.24 amu

Electron Configuration: 1s^2 2s^2 2p^s 3s^2 3p^6 4s^2 3d^10 4p^6 5s^2 4d^10 5p^6 4f^3 6s^2

C.F. Aver-Von Welshbach discovered Praseodynmium in 1885 (Bentor, 2016). The transition metal was discovered in Vienna and can now be found in salts. Praseodynmium was named for its green color as today its primary function is coloring glass and ceramics. The other elements in group six are usually soft, metallic, and bond with magnesium and are used in aircraft engines (Lee, 2016).


Symbol: Dy

Atomic Number: 66

Atomic Mass: 162.50

Electron Configuration: 1s^2 2s^2 2p^s 3s^2 3p^6 4s^2 3d^10 4p^6 5s^2 4d^10 5p^6 4f^3 6s^9

Dysprosium was discovered by Paul Emile Lecoq de Boisbaudran in 1866 (Bentor, 2016). The namesake of Dysprosium is the greek word dysprositos meaning hard to get at. Though it was found in Paris, the transition metal can never be found as a free element. Dysprosium will always be found in another mineral (Lee, 2016). Dysprosium is now mainly used in motors and nuclear reactors. Elements in group thirteen all share the characteristic of being metallic.


Symbol: Ra

Atomic Number: 88

Atomic Mass: 226.03

Electron Configuration: 1s^2 2s^2 2p^6 3s^2 3p^6 4s^2 3d^10 4p^6 5s^2 4d^10 5p^6 6s^2 5d^10 6p^6 7s^2

In 1998 in North Bohemia, Marie and Pierre Curie discovered Radium (Bentor, 2016). Radium was named after the Latin word radius (Bentor, 2016). The alkaline earth metal is now obtained from uranium ores and is used to help treat cancer. Elements home to group two on the periodic table are softer and not as metallic as other metals (Lee, 2016).


All of the elements on the periodic table contribute to the way of life and the order of the world in one way or another. The "Artistic Elements" from The Disappearing Spoon are especially crucial to the lives of many. Even if they aren't widely known Lithium, Strontium, Ruthenium, Radium, Dysprosium, Praseodynmium are in everyone's lives. Without Radium people would not be getting the treatment to cancer they so desperately need. Praseodynmium brings color and decoration to people's lives. Dysprosium works in our motors so people can travel the world. No matter in what shape or form the elements on the periodic table truly are works of art.


Bentor, Y. (n.d.). Chemical - Radium (Ra). Retrieved January 9, 2016, from

Kean, Sam (July, 2010). The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements. Retrieved from,%20Love%20And%20The%20History%20Of%20The%20World.pdf

Lee, S. (2015, May 18). Group 13: Physical Properties of Group 13. Retrieved January 11, 2016, from