The History of the Periodic Table

9th February 2020
BY Julian Perry, Science Technician

The school was honoured to welcome world-famous Cambridge chemist and author Dr Peter Wothers MBE for our most recent Science Society lecture, who spoke on the history of the Periodic Table. There was a large turnout, including pupils from nearby Barton Peveril sixth-form college.

“There is probably no greater authority on the subject,” Head of Science Chas McCaw said. “Peter brought it to life with many fantastic illustrations of the earliest texts, including a reproduction of the first ever Periodic Table.”

Dr Wothers explained that the first Periodic Table was not in fact produced by Mendeleyev in 1869 – as is commonly believed – but was actually an obscure and ignored idea published in 1862 known as the Telluric Screw.

Its inventor was the French geologist Alexandre-Émile Béguyer de Chancourtois. Mendeleyev is remembered for his Periodic Table because he was bold enough to predict new elements that would be discovered in order to fill the gaps in his table; he was even able to predict their properties – predictions that would later be confirmed.

Master-in-charge of Science Society, Matthew Burnett, said, “I am very grateful to Dr Wothers for enthusing many of our budding chemists across all year groups with a compelling mix of the history and scientific underpinning of the Periodic Table’s origin.”

After the lecture, Dr Wothers signed copies of his latest chemistry book, Antimony, Gold and Jupiter’s Wolf.

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