February 7, we celebrate the periodic table. We celebrate it on this day because it is the day a man named John Newlands first published a table of the elements in 1863. It is a new holiday, first conceived by Mr. David T. Steineker, author, inventor, and chemistry teacher at Jefferson County Public Schools in Kentucky in 2016.
The periodic table as we know it today did not spring up readymade but was developed over many years from the earliest elements humanity knew – gold, silver, copper, iron, lead, tin, mercury, sulfur and carbon, which were all known before the first century of the common era. By 1809 there were 47 discovered elements. (By the way, for those who have forgotten their chemistry from school, elements are the building blocks of the universe. Water is made up of two elements, hydrogen and oxygen, hence H2O.)
People tried putting the elements together in a logical order in various ways. If you are into chemistry, it’s a fascinating story, and you can read all about it on the Website of the National Periodic Table Day Foundation. It was finally formalized in pretty much the form we know now by Glenn T. Seaborg in 1945. The table groups elements in families according to how they react with other elements or chemicals and according to their atomic mass.
So all this may seem academic and not very related to daily life, but the table gave chemists a way to predict how elements would react, thus making experiments easier. It has also provided a means for predicting new elements to be found, so if you are a chemist, it is a very useful tool indeed.
Quotes about chemistry
Engineering, too, owes its most useful materials to the achievements of chemists in identifying, separating, and transforming materials: structural steel for the framework of bridges and buildings, Portland cement for roadways and aqueducts, pure copper for the electrical industries, aluminum alloys for automobiles and airplanes, porcelain for spark plugs and electrical insulators. The triumphs of engineering skill rest on a chemical foundation.–Horace G. Deming
Chemistry itself knows altogether too well that – given the real fear that the scarcity of global resources and energy might threaten the unity of mankind – chemistry is in a position to make a contribution towards securing a true peace on earth.–Kenichi Fukui
Few scientists acquainted with the chemistry of biological systems at the molecular level can avoid being inspired.–Donald Cram
I try to show the public that chemistry, biology, physics, astrophysics is life. It is not some separate subject that you have to be pulled into a corner to be taught about.–Neil deGrasse Tyson
Biochemistry is the science of life. All our life processes – walking, talking, moving, feeding – are essentially chemical reactions. So biochemistry is actually the chemistry of life, and it’s supremely interesting.–Aaron Ciechanover
I can’t explain chemistry. I really can’t. I haven’t got a clue what it’s all about. It just happens. It’s like falling in love. You can’t explain why you fall in love or explain why it’s this particular person.–Elaine Stritch
Now in the 21st century, the boundaries separating chemistry, physics, and medicine have become blurred, and as happened during the Renaissance, scientists are following their curiosities even when they run beyond the formal limits of their training.–Peter Agre
My eyes are constantly wide open to the extraordinary fact of existence. Not just human existence, but the existence of life and how this breathtakingly powerful process, which is natural selection, has managed to take the very simple facts of physics and chemistry and build them up to redwood trees and humans.–Richard Dawkins
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