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The Periodic Table

Its Story and Its Significance

Dr. Eric Scerri
Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, UCLA

ABSTRACT: The periodic table is absolutely central to the whole of science and chemistry in particular. However, little attention has been devoted to its origins and its theoretical status with respect to physics and especially to quantum mechanics, which is generally supposed to explain it fully. The lecture will draw on the author’s recent prize-winning book, The Periodic Table, Its Story and Its Significance, in an attempt to redress this imbalance. Topics will include the precursors of the periodic table, its six independent discoverers, and its impact on modern physics—including the discovery of the electron, radioactivity and isotopes—as well as theoretical approaches due to Bohr, Pauli, Schrödinger and others. The lecture will conclude with some thoughts on whether there might be an ‘optimal form’ of the periodic table and what this might look like.

THE SPEAKER: Eric Scerri is originally from Malta. He obtained all his degrees in the UK. His Bachelors and Masters degrees were in chemistry from the Universities of London and Southampton. His Ph.D was in history and philosophy of science from Kings College, London. He went to the US as a postdoctoral fellow at Caltech fifteen years ago and has remained in the US ever since. For the past 10 years he has been teaching chemistry and philosophy of science at the University of California at Los Angeles. Scerri is one of the founders of the field of philosophy of chemistry as well as the founder and editor of the journal Foundations of Chemistry, now in its eleventh year of publication.

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