International Year of the Periodic Table – 2019

2019 marks the 150th anniversary of Dmitri Mendeleev establishing what would become the periodic table, that very familiar arrangement of chemical elements in columns and rows based on atomic weights and similar characteristics (though the original looked quite different). The United Nations General Assembly and UNESCO have proclaimed 2019 to be the International Year of the Periodic Table of Chemical Elements (IYPT2019), with events all over the world. During the year we’ll post some pieces about the Periodic Table, highlighting interesting articles on the history and evolution of this chemical icon (and some of the lesser known names involved), the hunt for new elements and discovery of the most recent ones, books in the collection, alternative representations of the periodic table, fictitious elements, and even the Periodic Table’s place as a popular culture meme.

“What made his version successful was the fact that he left gaps where there appeared to be an element missing that had not yet been discovered. He also thought to occasionally ignore the order suggested by the atomic weights and to switch adjacent elements where they could be better classified into chemical families. Atomic numbers were not yet known, but the atomic weights worked well enough for ordering most of the elements, and Mendeleev was able to accurately predict the properties of missing elements.”   — From Finding the Periodic Table by David Allen (RSC)

Some fun stuff to get started:

  • The American Chemical Society will be running a “Periodic Playoff” in March. You can vote now for your favorite element(s), and the the brackets will begin in March.
  • Chemical & Engineering News is running a “I Spy a Periodic Table” photo content. The best were selected in each group: best of historical, best of fashion, best of cupcakes (seriously) and others. The overall winner will be announced in early March, but you can still skim through all 427 entries.
  • The Periodic Table is everywhere, as evidenced by #ispyaperiodictable. Even if you don’t have a Twitter account, you can check in to where people are finding it around them.
  • The Compound Interest blog has launched IYPT Elements, with an infographic for every element.

There’s also the January 29th IYPT opening ceremony at UNESCO HQ. There’s about 7 hours of streaming content, from talks to music. Here are some highlights, with timestamps if you want to scroll ahead.

  • 1:47 – Periodic Table for Society and the Future (Prof. Ben Feringa (Nobel Laureate in Chemistry, 2016)
  • 2:34 – Newcomers in the Periodic Table (Prof. Youri Oganessian, for whom element 118 was named)
  • 2:57 – Mendeleev’s Gift to Education (Prof. Martyn Poliakoff)
  • 3:11 – On the Origin of Elements (Roundtable)


Periodic Table