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A History of the Periodic Table: Men and Women Who Developed it

The periodic table is always in my hands in chemistry class. My teacher made me and the whole class memorize half of it. Everything my teacher did has made me want to know all about the people who had something to do with one of the most, if not the only important things in chemistry. So, the point of this is to discover all about it with you. Let’s start with what is chemistry. It’s the study of the properties, structure, and composition of substances. We’ve got more than one kind of chemistry branch, but the ones that are taught in most schools are the inorganic and organic ones. Inorganic chemistry studies inorganic substances, while organic one studies organic substances, these are usually of animal or plant origin. The elements from the periodic table, like gold(Au), iron(Fe), and even oxygen(O) are inorganic, and sugar, fats, and oil are the ones to be considered organic.

The history of chemistry is a vast and fascinating subject. Everything starts from 1000 BC when civilizations used technologies that would eventually transform into the basics of chemistry. Discoveries like the existence of fire, extracting metals, making pottery, fermenting beer and wine, extracting medicine from plants, and even making glass. But the chemistry that we know and use today started in 1871, when the periodic table was constructed by Dimitri Mendeleev. Who is this Mendeleev guy? Well, Dimitri Mendeleev was a Russian chemist and inventor. He created a version of the periodic table we know today, but he didn’t only do this, he also predicted the rest of the elements yet to be discovered. He discovered six elements, that are: sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, strontium, and barium.

Firstly let’s talk about the women that has taken part in the discovery of the periodic table. Lise Meitner discovered the protactinium. There is an element named after her, called meitnerium. She received the Enrico Fermi Award. Julia Lermontova was the one who helped refine the separation process for many elements like ruthenium, rhodium, palladium, osmium, iridium, and platinum. She was the first woman to get her doctorate in chemistry in Germany. The term “isotopes” was suggested by Margaret Todd, who was a Scottish medical doctor and writer, to the men who sadly took the credit for it. You may ask what does this term mean? Well as Google says it is “one of two or more species of atoms of a chemical element with the same atomic number and position in the periodic table and nearly identical chemical behavior but with different atomic masses and physical properties”. Harriet Brooks was the first Canadian nuclear physicist, who studied radioactive decay and determined a new element could be processed in the process. Ida Noddack was a German chemist and physicist, who in 1934 was the first to mention the idea of nuclear fission. She and her husband, Otto Berg, discovered the 75, rhenium. For her doings, she was nominated for the Nobel Prize three times. Of course, there are many more of these women who have made a name in this field, but the one that I want to speak about is the one and only Marie Curie. Everyone knows her, but if I’m being totally honest she is my favorite. She wasn’t just the first woman to win the Nobel Prize, but she also was the first to win the Nobel Prize twice and the first to win it for two different scientific fields. She and her husband became the first married couple to win a Nobel Prize. She discovered two elements; polonium and uranium. Marie Curie also did pioneering research on radioactivity.

Certainly, Mendeleev was the first man to discover the elements, but not the only one. Alexandre Béguyer de Chancourtois was a French geologist, before the time of Mendeleev. His principal contribution to chemistry was the 'vis tellurique' (telluric screw), which is "a three-dimensional arrangement of the elements constituting an early form of the periodic classification", published in 1862. Then came John Newlands, who was a British chemist. Just four years before Mendeleev, Nowland noticed that there were similarities between the elements with atomic weight that differed by seven. He did not leave any blank spaces in his periodic table, and sometimes he had to cramp two elements in one box to not destroy the pattern. Julius Lothar Meyer most likely knew Mendeleev, as he also studied at the same university as he did. He produced several periodic tables between 1864 and 1870. His first table contained only 28 elements, but in the other periodic tables, he incorporated transition metals. The elements were listed based on their atomic weight, and in 1868 he arranged his table to almost look like the one Mendeleev discovered. Sadly for him, his work was published only a year later than Mendeleev’s and with that, he admitted that Mendeleev was the first one.

The first attempt to classify the table was made in 1789 by Antoine Lavoisier. He tried to group the elements into gases, metals, non-metals, and earth. It was only after six years after Mendeleev’s death that things fell into the right places. The periodic table was arranged by atomic mass. However, there were some exceptions, which Mendeleev has seen but the reason why synch moves were supposed to be made was determined by Henry Mosely.

In conclusion, I think we all can admit that the history of chemistry is not as predictable as many may think. There isn't just a man behind the modern basis of chemistry, but many many women and men who devoted their own lives for the sake of humanity. Of course, I still believe that it is not fair for the women who served their souls on a platter in this field just so the men in their lives take all the prizes for doing nothing. I do hope that in time this thing about humanity will change and everyone will get what they deserve.

Periodic Table Elements Touch. Periodic Table Chemical Concept with Men Touching Some Element by His Finger. Chemistry Touch Screen. (n.d.).


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