The growing sophistication of miners during the pre-industrial age and the industrial revolution allowed for the discovery of over two dozen metals, including bismuth, cobalt, nickel, selenium, yttrium, niobium, chromium, and more. Technology was far outstripping theory as the alchemist’s doctrine of a mingling of mercury and sulfur was woefully inadequate to explain the riches spewing from the mines and hillsides of Sweden, England, Transylvania, Mexico and the United States.
And while each metal was recognized as unique, the similarity of many of them was leading to “chemical families”. Meanwhile, the universities were questioning the basic tenets of Aristotle — how could fire, earth, water and air account for such a diversity of metals? The time was ripe for a profound change in philosophy and a recantation of two thousand years of pedagogical dogma.
Explore the elements by decade:
- 1735-1764: cobalt, nickel, platinum, magnesium
- 1765-1774: barium, chlorine, manganese
- 1775-1784: molybdenum, tungsten, tellurium
- 1785-1794: strontium, zirconium, uranium, titanium, yttrium
- 1795-1804: chromium, beryllium, vanadium, niobium, tantalum, palladium, cerium, osmium, iridium, rhodium
Malden, Massachusetts, USA
Teacher: Martin Berryman
Artist: Michelle Nie
When creating this piece, various shades of blue and the history behind the element cobalt were a guide in the artist process. The goblin is inspired by the superstitious German term kobalt, translated as “goblin”, used by miners to describe the ore. Two side drawings are of cobalt crystals. The borders around the goblin are inspired by the patterns in Chinese porcelain and the symmetric border is meant to mimic the pattern on the porcelain. Ocean waves were drawn to represent the ocean, where there is an abundance of cobalt.
Chelmsford, Ontario, Canada
Teacher: Chantal Rioux
Artist: Émilie-Rose Roussel
Nickel was discovered in 1751 by the Swedish chemist Axel Fredrik Cronstedt, which is why I wrote his name in the first of the five layers of the earth’s crust. This element is mined in the first crust, you will notice the mine shafts in the first layer on my tile. The top half of the tile is a yellow cross with a blue background representing the Swedish flag. I’ve also included the symbol for my hometown, Sudbury where nickel has been mined for the last 268 years represented by 268 stones in the smoke stack (symbol of Sudbury).
Teacher: Gabriel Pinto
Artists: Camino Luque, Roser Nicolau, Gema Arboleda, and Francisco Díaz
Platinum was discovered by Antonio de Ulloa (a Spanish naval officer, mathematician and traveler) during a scientific expedition (Geodesic Mission) in the eighteenth century through South America. The name of the element is because the Spaniards called it “platina” (“little silver” in Spanish). It is a precious metal with uses as car catalysts, jewelry and electronic devices. The artwork is inspired by the figure of Ulloa and properties of platinum. Students Camino Luque, Roser Nicolau and Gema Arboleda made it, under the direction of Francisco Díaz (Assistant) and Prof. Dr. Gabriel Pinto, by using ink and acrylic technique on canvas.
Guelph, Ontario, Canada
Teachers: Sue Bender and Michael Neerhoff
Artist: Riley Luke (compilation of artwork)
Magnesium is an element found on the periodic table with atomic number 12. It is an alkaline earth metal. An atom of magnesium is found at the centre of the chlorophyll molecule, which is essential for photosynthesis. We grew grass in the shape of our element’s symbol. The vine-like design reflects the interior of the molecule, with blue flowers representing nitrogen atoms, and leaves representing carbon atoms. Joseph Black recognized magnesium as an element in 1755. The artwork was cooperatively developed by: Tarkan Dahi, Mikaela Dauncey, Jed Gasmen, Kadyn Kapitain, Riley Luke, Jonas Matulis, Lauren McCrae, Angelina McKinnon, Sophie Panabaker, Ashley Perry, Hiroko Adjei-Afriyie and Emma Zuccala.
Barrie, Ontario, Canada
Teacher: Kristen Roth
Artist: Sydney Barber
When creating this piece, my intent was to recreate a night sky filled with bright, green fireworks. Barium is used in pyrotechnics to create green coloured flames and I thought it would be the perfect real-life application to illustrate due to its aesthetics. Barium was first isolated by Sir Humphry Davy, an English chemist, in 1808. I first created a hexagon of the appropriate proportions out of black construction paper. I then drew the fireworks using a white pencil crayon and added value using a green pencil crayon.
Wellington, Île-du-Prince-Édouard, Canada -
Teacher: Marcel Caissie -
Artist: Liam Wall and grade 11 Chemistry Class
Mendeleev was drawn by grade 12 student Liam Wall. Chlorine gas background was used because of its use in chemical warfare as far back as WWI. This remind us of how dangerous chlorine gas is. We also included hand drawn poppy to remember the fallen soldiers. To remind us that chlorine is present in our homes we used salt to depict the Cl symbol. We also included a faint star behind Mendeleev because it is part of our school logo. The logo symbolizes our time spent at École Évangéline — Chemistry Class.
Maplewood, Minnesota, U.S.A.
Teacher: Michelle Lee
Artist: Amelia Jutz
Manganese (Mn). Atomic number 25. I took into consideration the discoverer Johan Gottlieb Gahn, a Swedish chemist shown in the bottom left quadrant. The Swedish flag is in tribute to his nationality and is represented as the background on the project. The buildings seen in the top right corner pay tribute to the use manganese has in construction steel. I chose to display everything in a shade of blue because it would make the piece more unified and add a creative element to the project.
Oromocto, New Brunswick, Canada
Teacher: Winnie Hsu
Artist: Abigail Purchase
The name molybdenum comes from the ancient Greek word molybdos meaning lead and discovered by Carl William Scheele in 1778. It was first isolated in 1781 in Sweden, whose flag is shown. A 14th Century Japanese sword was drawn because some contained molybdenum. Demands for alloy steels resulted in molybdenum being used in both World Wars as represented by the army tank in the artwork. This was an independent project for students. They were given some direction about the criteria for submission and encouraged to use their creative abilities. Students were excited to be part of a global project.
University of Waterloo
Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
Teacher: Rick Marta
Artist: Rick Marta
Using uWaterloo’s black and gold school colours, this artwork draws on tungsten’s discovery story. Over 350 years ago, Chinese porcelain makers used a W-containing pigment unknown to Westerners. Irish chemist (1779), Peter Woulfe, studied a mineral (wolframite) obtained from Sweden that contained tungsten; however, tungsten was not isolated. Swedish chemist, Carl Wilhelm Scheele (1781) transformed this mineral into a white oxide, correctly theorizing a new metal. In 1783 (MDCCLXXXIII, Roman numerals), tungsten was isolated by Spanish chemists (and brothers), Juan and Fausto Elhuyar. Tungsten’s most abundant isotopes are CLXXXII, CLXXXIV and CLXXXVI. The ground state electron configuration is displayed.
Kalamunda Senior High School
Perth, Western Australia, Australia
Teacher: Julie Loxton
Artist: Alyse Todd
Tellurium is also known as Te on the periodic table. Its atomic number is 52 and was discovered in 1783 by Franz Joseph Muller von Reichenstein. Tellurium is wsed to improve malleability in some metals. Most commonly found in Russia, Canada, Peru and Japan. Tellurium is a silver-white metal, and its native form is an elemental crystal.
Old Lyme, Connecticut, U.S.A.
Teacher: Lucy Walter
Artist: Alex Williams
For the element strontium (atomic number 38), I endeavored to visually display an assortment of its uses over the years since its discovery, moving from left to right across the tile. At the far left is the mine from which the element was discovered. Sugar beets are illustrated to remember the use of strontium in its production, in primarily the nineteenth century. Moving on, its uses in spacecraft along with its contribution to fireworks and signal flares (to which it provides a crimson flame) are depicted. Finally, the silvery metal itself is depicted along the bottom of the tile.
Dubai, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Teacher: Vanessa Holmes
Artist: Charmaine Kee
Ancient Egyptians used zircon gemstones in jewellery. However, zirconium was first recognised as an element by German chemist, Martin Heinrich Klaproth in 1789. He made his discovery using its chief mineral zircon (zirconium silicate). The elements name comes from the Arabic word ‘zargon’ meaning gold-like. Zirconium is a hard, corrosion resistant, silvery metal. In an oxygen atmosphere, finely divided zirconium can spontaneously ignite. The metal and its oxide are widely used in ceramics, foundry equipment, glass, metal alloys and in surgical equipment. Artificial gems are made from zirconium oxide known as cubic zirconia; produced as a low-cost substitute for diamond.
Frisco, Texas, U.S.A.
Teacher: Jo L. King
Artist: Brigitte Kenna
I represented uranium using three main symbols: nuclear power plant, stained glass and night sky. The nuclear power plant shows how the radioactive element uranium is used in the power industry to generate electricity. The stained glass represents uranium's history. Before it was found to be dangerously radioactive, it was used to stain glassware a green and orange color. Next, the smoke from the power plant is shown to be a night sky containing the planet Uranus, its namesake. Uranus had been discovered only 8 years before Martin Heinrich Klaproth discovered uranium discovery (1789) in the mineral pitchblende. The shimmery glitter decorating all the white space representing the silvery ore that uranium is mined from in the natural world.
Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada
Teacher: Stacey Hays
Artist: Bronwyn Hays
The element artwork for titanium contains details that represent components of its discovery as well as characteristics of the metal. The metallic colour of the symbol and atomic number was chosen to represent the silvery lustre of the element. Titanium was discovered in Great Britain by William Gregor in 1791. The flag on our tile is the flag of Great Britain at the time of the discovery, which also inspired the use of red and blue for the name of the discoverer and the year of discovery. The figure on the right side is the silhouette of Great Britain.
Teacher: Ya'el Schleifer
When our teacher told us about the project we started looking for facts about this element. Most of the students found interesting facts about this element and we’ve started to understand more about yttrium.
Being the only group from Israel, we would like to represent, with honor, our culture across the world, and in our project. We’ve decided to include Israel’s most important symbol – the star of David. The red component of color television is presented by a television and by the red lasers going out from the TV. The blue lines represent yttrium’s usage in blue LED lights.
1795-1804: chromium, beryllium, vanadium, niobium, tantalum, palladium, cerium, osmium, iridium, rhodium
Pembroke, Ontario, Canada
Teacher: Leanne Egan
Artist: Alex Orman
The focus of the tile is a portrait of Louis-Nicolas Vauquelin, a French chemist, who isolated metallic chromium in 1797. Gemstones, such as rubies and emeralds, are included because they contain trace amounts of chromium. The charcoal furnace played an important role in the experiments used to isolate chromium. The Ural Mountains are depicted in the background because the red mineral crocoite was found in the Beryozovskoye mines there. This mineral lead(II) chromate, also known as Siberian red lead, was used by Vauquelin to isolate metallic chromium.
Hopedale, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada
Teacher: Jennifer Winters
Artist: Kanses Winters
Beryllium was first identified by Louis-Nicholas Vauquelin in 1798. He was prompted to research emeralds and beryl by mineralogist Rene Hauy. This is represented at the top of my artwork. The bottom of my artwork represents emeralds from Vauquelin’s research, in jewelry. Upon discovery, it was named “glucina” for its sweet taste. The left side of my artwork depicts the first research of the element. The name was later changed to beryllium to better match its source mineral. The spacecraft illustrated on the right represents one of the current uses of beryl due to its heat resistance.
Kitchener, Ontario, Canada
Teacher: Kate Rowlandson
Artist: Maggie Sweeney
In creating this piece, I worked to primarily emphasize the overall concept of shining a light on the relationship between humanity, the mind, and the organic world and the importance of this connection to discovery. I feel that learning the sciences helps us to develop a deep connection to the world we live in, which gives us the power to make discoveries, invent, and innovate. This concept was communicated through the repetition of the colour motif in the flowing shapes, the portrait of the discoverer Andrés Manuel del Río Fernández, and the objects made of vanadium, representing its connections to the world.
Bogotá, D.C., Colombia
Teacher: Angela Mercedes Quiñones-Castañeda
Artist: Collaboration of students and teachers
Niobium is a very common element that is found on the surface of the earth and is freely found within nature. Niobium was discovered in 1801 by Charles Hatchett in an ore called columbite. In an attempt to represent its most relevant characteristic, a magnet was drawn next to the electronic composition. Niobium is found in the form of a metal and can converted into a superconductor at cryogenic temperatures. These properties also depend the purity of the metal because if it is very pure it will become softer and more ductile. When it’s exposed to air at room temperature, it acquires a bluish tone. It has resistance to corrosion, characteristics of superconductivity and can acquire layers of dielectric oxide.
Chilliwack, British Columbia, Canada
Teacher: Chris Reilly
Artists: Emma-Lee Riddolls and David Barg
The artwork for element 73, tantalum, includes painted images to represent the uses and history of tantalum. The plane represents tantalum’s use in jet turbine blades. The stem of the “T” is a capacitor, which is used in circuits. The “A” incorporates the shape of a camera lens, as tantalum is used to make the glass. The name “tantalum” originates from Greek mythology and is named after the figure “Tantalus.” The “3” is made up of wire, and is covered in fire to represent the metal’s high boiling point. The African continent represents the war and conflict fought over tantalum. The “7” is in a fruit tree with Tantalus reaching up because he was most famous for his eternal punishment of not being able to eat the fruit from the tree above him or drink the water that was around him.
Denver, Colorado, U.S.A.
Teacher: Stephan Graham
Artist: Paola Candia
I drew images of jewelry, an asteroid, an ingot of the metal, coins and an electron configuration. Palladium is a rare metal that is used in many applications like making jewelry. It was named after the asteroid Pallas. Palladium is expensive and could be used as the metal in cast bars and even coins! Palladium's atomic number is 46 and it has 46 electrons around its nucleus. Palladium was discovered in 1803 by William Hyde Wollaston.
Thornhill, Ontario, Canada
Teacher: Zahid Panchbhaya
Artist: Tasya Zhizhina
The artwork depicts the three chemists that discovered cerium, who can be seen in the flame. The two at the bottom were placed together (Jöns Jakob Berzelius and Wilhelm Hisinger) as they were working collaboratively when they discovered it. The other chemist (Martin Heinrich Klaproth) discovered it independently at the same time, therefore he is slightly separated. They are in the flame of a lighter because lighters are one of the main uses of cerium. A dwarf planet Ceres is shown in the sky as cerium is named after it. On the ground, a piece of cerium metal is shown. The tile was sketched with a pencil, and then completely painted with watercolor.
Conyers, Georgia, U.S.A.
Teacher: Diana Kennen
Artist: Stephan Sellers
This tile was chosen from over 80 entries to represent the school. The artist used various markers and colored pencils to sketch and create this elemental artwork. She included the discoverer of osmium, Smithson Tennant, and various examples of its uses. These included a record stylus, a pacemaker and the fountain pen. Since the name osmium is based on osme, to smell, she also represented the odor using green vapors in her drawing.
Eagle River, Alaska, U.S.A.
Teacher: Matthew R. Prnka
Artist: Aidan Sutherland
The drawing depicts a T-Rex dinosaur standing in front of mountains because when Aidan was researching the element, he found the Alvarez hypothesis, which supports the idea of the mass extinction of dinosaurs after a meteorite impact. Iridium is in higher abundance in meteorites than in the Earth's soil or crust layer and is often found in higher abundance in rock layers corresponding to the time of the dinosaurs’ extinction. Alaska has many dinosaur fossils and large mountains, so the drawing reflects a couple of unique things from our state.
Cottleville, Missouri, U.S.A.
Teacher: Carol Green
Artist: Sarah Allison
The name rhodium originates from the Greek 'rhodon' meaning rose colored so I incorporated a rose into my artwork. I also included an English flag because rhodium was discovered by William Hyde Wollaston, an English scientist, in 1803. Rhodium was discovered in South Africa, thus, the South African flag. I used a shimmery color for the symbol and atomic number because rhodium is a silver color. The sun is there because rhodium can be used as catalyst to create solar power. Lastly, I used the Volvo logo because Volvo started using rhodium in their three-way catalytic converters in 1976.