Rusty Rockets in Scienceagogo:
Despite the periodic table’s ubiquitous presence, how many people would have known what polonium (Po) was prior to the media circus surrounding the poisoning of Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko? The periodic table, which has symbolized chemistry ever since its controversial conception during the 1860s is largely thought of as a fixed reference work, but the table is yet to be completed, and some lucky scientists’ careers involve running high-energy tests to fill in the gaps and perhaps catch a glimpse of the table’s ultimate limits.
To UCLA chemist and historian Eric Scerri, author of the recently published The Periodic Table: Its Story and Its Significance, the periodic table symbolizes and encapsulates the whole field of chemistry. “It is completely unique in science. Chemistry is the only field with one simple chart that embodies the essence of the field. This wonderful tool serves to organize the whole of chemistry,” he says. So while Dmitri Mendeleyev will always be known as the man who “invented” the periodic table, it’s perhaps fitting that the table was actually the brainchild of six independent scientists.