Topics: Chemistry, History, Physics, Research
Fair play to Rupert Pennant-Rea. Embarrassed by his lack of scientific knowledge, the 70-year-old former deputy governor of the Bank of England and ex-editor of the Economist recently revealed he was studying for a GCSE in science – an exam normally taken by teenagers at 16. But while reading about his scientific efforts in the Financial Times, I was shocked to discover that Pennant-Rea had, until a year ago, never heard of the periodic table.
Really? So in all his time writing about and analyzing the business world, Pennant-Rea had never known about the diagram that hangs in every science classroom around the world and lists every element according to its atomic number? I’m struggling to find the right analogy, but surely not knowing about the existence of the periodic table is like saying you've never heard of the stock market. Or the United Nations. Or cheese boards.
Just as well, then, that UNESCO has designated 2019 the International Year of the Periodic Table, which is officially being launched today at its headquarters in Paris. This year will see chemists and physicists celebrating the 150th anniversary of Dmitri Mendeleev’s seminal attempt to order elements in a systematic fashion for the first time. Dated 17 February 1869 in the Julian calendar, Mendeleev’s hand-drawn table evolved over the years, with the lead feature of February’s issue of Physics World describing how one particular version – of the hundreds crafted since – became the table we know and love today.
Scientists celebrate 150 years of the periodic table at UNESCO headquarters in Paris
Matin Durrani, Physics World