The Periodic Table: Its Story and Its Significance
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 Döbereiner 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.
By Bruce Crocker "agnostictrickster" - January 4, 2007
Humans are exquisitely good at finding patterns. Sometimes those patterns turn out to be illusory, such as the constellations. Sometimes they turn out to be very real, such as the patterns illustrated by the periodic table of the elements. Eric Scerri, in his book The Periodic Table, has done an excellent job of presenting a "warts and all" history of the periodic table. Instead of presenting the "heroes only" version of the history of the periodic table [speaking of illusory patterns] found in most high school and college textbooks, he gives us a full historical view with all the players, big and small, and shows how even ideas that turned out to be wrong had a positive effect on getting us to the periodic table we use today. Although scientists may someday show that the periodic table ultimately reduces to quantum mechanics, Professor Scerri shows us why we can't say that with the level of certainty with which it is often presented in chemistry classes [the next time I find... read more
A brilliant achievement
By tianyan - December 27, 2006
Scerri's work is a rich and fascinating account of the history, development and current significance of the Periodic Table: if you have any interest in chemistry you should read it. In his book he describes how the Period System was discovered (giving due credit to Mendeleev, but also to many others who deserve their place in the history of discovery),showing how it was received by other chemists. The most interesting part for me is in the brilliant later chapters, where the role of the Periodic System in influencing Bohr's ideas on the atom, and the nature of the relationship between quantum theory and empirical evidence is presented as clearly as you will find anywhere. Chemistry emerges not (as Dirac once claimed) entirely reduced to physics, but as a still-developing science in which quantum mechanics plays an important but not yet wholly reductive role.
An instant classic
By Gary D. Patterson - January 3, 2007
The Periodic Table is one of the most iconic symbols in our culture. Every person interested in the physical world in which we live will want to read this book. It is also a masterful history of the people involved in the establishment of the periodic law of chemistry. The gradual growth in awareness of the regularities of the elements is the main theme of this work. It is already a classic in its first year in print!
Born in an isolated Siberian village in 1834, Dmitri Ivanovitch Mendeleyev overcame great odds to become the most brilliant and acclaimed scientist in the field of chemistry in the 19th century. His ...