College of HUMANITIES, ARTS & SCIENCES

Monday, August 12, 2019 - 13:30
Thursday, September 19, 2019 - 13:30

Wilson Lecture Series

Dr. Eric Scerri’s talk will include a brief historical tour of important steps in the evolution of the periodic table beginning with the recognition of triads of elements and Prout’s hypothesis, progressing through the early attempts to develop a consistent periodic system. The work of Dmitri Mendeleev who published the first fully successful periodic table 150 years ago, in 1869, will be highlighted, including his predictions of new elements. The historical survey will continue with some discoveries that initially threatened to destroy the periodic system but which were successfully overcome (the noble gases and isotopes). In the 20th century several discoveries in physics such as X-rays, radioactivity and the electron all had a profound impact of our understanding of the reason d’être of the periodic table culminating in the development of quantum mechanics. The lecture will examine the extent to which this theory explains the periodic table. Finally we will consider whether there may exist one optimal form of the periodic table and some of the candidate tables that have been proposed to play this role. The lecture is especially designed to appeal to the general public as well as scientists.   

Eric Scerri received all his degrees in the UK before going to the US in 1995 as a Caltech postdoctoral fellow. For the past 20 years he has been a lecturer at UCLA where he teaches general chemistry as well as courses in History and Philosophy of Science. He is also the founding editor of the journal Foundations of Chemistry and the author of several books with Oxford University Press including The Periodic Table, Its Story and Its Significance (2007), A Very Short Introduction to the Periodic Table (2011) A Tale of Seven Elements (2013) and A Tale of Seven Scientists and A New Philosophy of Science (2016). 

Scerri is the acknowledged world’s expert on historical and philosophical aspects of the periodic table of the elements and has lectured on this subject around the world.  Website:  www.ericscerri.com

Wilson Lecture Series: The Periodic Table, Its Story and Its Significance