The Periodic Table (1865-1934)

The birth of the Periodic Table took place at the Chemiker Kongress (Chemical Congress) of September 3-5, 1860 in Karlsruhe, Germany.

Since Lavoisier’s time, scientists had been searching for ways to explain the chemical and physical similarities in elements, which mysteriously repeated at regular intervals with increasing atomic weight. Schematics included everything from a 45-degree spiral – the telluric helix – to the law of “Law of Octaves”. Part of the problem was that the atomic weight was often calculated as a multiple (or fraction) of the apparent equivalent weight of an element. Even the formula for water – H2O, 2 hydrogen atoms to 1 oxygen atom – was up for debate.

It was at this meeting, the Italian chemist Stanislao Cannizzaro (1826-1910) reintroduced a theory proposed by Amedeo Avogadro (1776-1856) in which valence could be used to establish a self-consistent set of true, absolute atomic weights. Two chemists in the audience, the German chemist Lothar Meyer (1830-1895) and the Russian chemist Dimitri Mendeleev (1834-1907), were quick to recognize how these corrected numbers allowed for a new ordering of the elements.

Each subsequently proposed Periodic Tables of their own, but it was Mendeleev’s version, published a year before Meyer’s, that eventually became standard. Mendeleev had been so bold as to predict not only the existence of new elements — including scandium, gallium, and germanium — but also the properties of each. The Periodic Table as we know it today came to its final form with the introduction of atomic numbers in 1912.

Explore the elements by decade:

Read more: "The Creation of the Periodic Table," by James Marshall, a Chem 13 News article (November 2019). 

1865-1874: helium

Helium, 2

Watercolor on paper. The sun and moon depicted on the left and a hot air balloon with the French flag and chemical symbol “He” on the right. A magenta glow separates the images.
Senator O'Connor College School
North York, Ontario, Canada
Teacher: Alicja Koprianiuk
Artist: Jakub Brol

My depiction of helium is the following: on the right side of the hexagon there is a hot air balloon which shows the French flag. I chose to do the French flag for the balloon because helium was discovered by a French astronomer, Pierre Jules César Janssen. On the other side of the hexagon I drew the Sun because it was where helium was first found. More specifically it was discovered as a yellow line on the border of the Sun. Additionally, I added a magenta glow as the flames representing the colour that helium emits in a discharge tube.

Note: There has been a correction to the original poster. Thulium (Tm, 69) was shifted from 1865-1874 to 1875-1884. The website, interactive pdf and downloadable poster are all updated to reflect this change.

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1875-1884: gallium, holmium, ytterbium, scandium, samarium, gadolinium, thulium

Gallium, 31

Collage of paper and aluminum foil on black background. Chemical symbol “Ga” appears over “Gallium” and atomic number “31”. Left is a portrait of Paul - Émile LeCoq de Boisbaudran with “1875” above him. Strips of paper radiating out in rainbow colours. Flattened aluminum foil circles appear bottom with “dripping” white paint at the top.
Hudsonville High School
Hudsonville, Michigan, U.S.A.
Teacher: Doug Ragan
Artist: Sophia Putman

Gallium was discovered in 1875 by Paul - Émile LeCoq de Boisbaudran by means of using a spectroscope which shines white light through a prism, breaking up the light into its individual color wavelengths through refraction.  My display includes separated rainbow colors to represent how he discovered the element.  Gallium's (Ga) atomic number is 31. Gallium is a metal that is a brittle solid at low temperatures and liquid at temperatures above 85.57 ⁰F (29.76 ⁰C).  I included a dripping liquid cutout to represent the elements liquid state, and crunched solid cutouts to show it as a solid.

Holmium, 67

Acrylic on dark blue background. In the upper left corner, chemical symbol “Ho”, “Holmium”, and atomic number “67” highlighted in white. An absorption spectra of the element across the centre leads to a composite portrait of Swidish Per Teodor Cleve and two other chemists. Behind them is a magnet with magnetic field lines. Miniature atomic Bohr models in white and yellow appear like bubbles across the tile.
Nagle Catholic College
Geraldton, Western Australia, Australia
Teacher: Mrs. Elisabete Costa
Artist: Ashleigh Naisbitt and Emily MacPherson

Our design depicts the discovery and magnetic properties of holmium. The three men who discovered the element are illustrated with holmium's spectroscopic colour lines. The most predominant figure is Swedish Per Teodor Cleve the main discoverer of the element. Holmium atoms are represented through multicoloured circles of white and yellow dots. The magnet and surrounding magnetic fields illustrate the element’s magnetic properties. The line spectrum at the base of the artwork represent the absorption lines of holmium. The wavelengths of the absorption lines allowed the discovery of holmium. Blue and yellow undertones are symbolic of Sweden's flag.

Ytterbium, 70

Coloured pencil on white paper. Centre is periodic table tile of ytterbium in bright orange, which includes “70”, “Yb”, “Ytterbium”, “173.04”. Additional illustrations include the Swedish flag above, an illustration of the University of Geneva across the bottom, and Jean-Charles Galissard de Marignac, right.
Early/Middle College at GTCC Jamestwon
Jamestown, North Carolina, U.S.A.
Teacher: Elizabeth Sunshine
Artist: Henna Aguilera

When creating my artwork, I researched the element of ytterbium, its history, and discovery.  Ytterbium was discovered by Jean Charles Galissard de Marignac and I decided he deserved credit for this contribution to science, so I drew him on the right side. Since ytterbium’s discovery was in a Swedish town, I added the Swedish flag. The experiments which discovered ytterbium, occurred at the University of Geneva, so I drew the university profile at the bottom. To the right, I drew how ytterbium appears in nature, and I finalized everything by adding the symbol representation in the middle of the drawing.

Scandium, 21

Coloured pencil on paper. Chemical symbol and atomic number “Sc – 21” featured at the top. Centre shows a bicycle with a Swedish flag in front of a mountain landscape. “1879” appears in the lower left corner.
Avonworth High School
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.
Teacher: Brittney Livesay
Artist: Ava Culley

Scandium is the twenty-first element on the periodic table. It was discovered in 1879 by Lars F. Nilson. The element received the name ‘Scandium’ because it was found in Sweden which is part of the Scandinavian Region. The reason there is a mountain range on the tile is because there are mountains in the Scandinavian Region. The pink and blue bike represents a common hobby of Swedish citizens. Scandium is also used in bicycles, along with baseball bats. The Swedish Flag in the bike basket shows the country where Scandium was discovered.

Samarium, 62

Pen and ink on white paper. Chemical symbol “Sm” sits in a central hexagon with “62” and “150.4”. Portraits of John Joly, left, and Paul-Émile de Boisbaudran, right. Above them are the Irish and French flags along with an allusion to the previous name for this element Hibernium, Hb, and a radioactive hazard symbol. Below is a transistor radio, handheld tape recorder, along with a syringe injecting radiotherapy drugs into a bone and the Greek symbol β.
Coláiste Choilm
Swords, Co Dublin, Republic of Ireland
Teacher: Seán Kelleher
Artist: Transition Year 1 Science Students

John Joly was an Irish geologist, and physicist, who “discovered” the element Hibernium while studying a piece of granite in 1907. (Samarium had previously been discovered in 1853). Joly was a pioneer in radioactive dating of the Earth, and co-developed the “Dublin Method” of intravenous radiotherapy: Samarium is a beta emitter used in bone cancer radiotherapy. Miniaturization of magnets in speakers used in the transition from free standing radios, to Walkmans and other portable audio devices, involved the addition of samarium.

Gadolinium, 64

Digital composite. Background is an old fashioned television. Inside the screen is the chemical symbol “Gd”, “Gadolinium”, and “64”. To the right is Jean Charles Galissard de Marignac giving a thumbs up.
Ozel Sisli Terakki Tepeoren Anadolu Lisesi
Istanbul, Tuzla, Turkey
Teacher: Gulsen Sokullu
Artist: Alara Aydin

I started off the drawing with a television because gadolinium is used in coloured television. I first wanted to draw veins (since gadolinium compounds are used in MRI) but I figured that would be a little complicated. The colors of the symbol and number are from a picture of gadolinium. Last but not least, the discoverer of gadolinium (Jean Charles Galissard de Marignac) must definitely have a place in the artwork.

Note: There has been a correction to the original poster. Thorium (Th, 90) was moved from the decade 1875-1884 to 1825-1834. The website, interactive pdf and downloadable poster are all updated to reflect this change.

Thulium, 69

Pen and ink on white paper. Per Teodor Cleve appears centre within a black and white futuristic hexagon frame. To the right is the chemical symbol “Tm”; left is the atomic number “69”. Above is a drawing of thulium; below is the periodic table tile of thulium which includes “69”, “Tm”, “Thulium”, “168.93421”, and the numbers “2, 8, 18, 31, 8, 2”.
King High School
Tampa, Florida, U.S.A.
Teacher: Allison Mercer
Artist: Harrison Alster

Per Teodor Cleve discovered thulium and is featured in the center of the artwork. At the top is a drawing of thulium and surrounding Per Teodor Cleve are the atomic number 69, the symbol Tm, and the classic periodic table tile of thulium. Pen and ink.

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1885-1894: praseodymium, neodymium, germanium, dysprosium, argon, fluorine

Praseodymium, 59

Coloured pencil on paper. A large Roman numeral two (“II”) appears centre in green. Behind it is a stage with curtains and lights. At the bottom left are “praseodymium” and the atomic number “59”. Portrait of Carl Auer Von Welsbach appears bottom right.
Weiss High School
Pflugerville, Texas, U.S.A.
Teacher: Christina Hotchkin
Artists: Anastasia T., Kayla K. and Brenda O.

We found out that our element is used in stage lighting, the light bulb part of it, and was discovered by Carl Auer von Welsbach. The Greek translation is the “green twin” due to the green oxide it produces. We decided to make the background a stage with the types of stage lights that have our element with it and on the stage we have the symbol for the green twins (Roman numeral for two colored green). We colored the tile in a way that it looks like it is glowing due to the stage lighting.

Neodymium, 60

Coloured pencil and ink on paper. A large glass vial containing metal and labeled “Nd-60” appears centre with “Neodymium” and “1885”. To the left are “Carl Auer von Welsbach” and “magnets” along with a Bohr model of neodymium. To the right are a lighter, ferris wheel, and Vienna, Austria.
Seoul Foreign British School
Seoul, South Korea, South Korea
Teacher: Kim Stuart
Artist: Irene Cho

Neodymium is used in objects that we use in our daily lives, such as lighter flints and magnets.  The weirdly shaped green on the far right was made to resemble the northern part of Austria, where neodymium was discovered in 1885 by Carl Auer von Welsbach. In the center, there is a large drawing of the metal neodymium in a glass vial.  I tried to make it more like the actual thing by using a metallic silver-coloured marker and adding pencil marks (the silver colour did not show up in the scanned copy.)

Germanium, 32

Coloured pencil on white paper. Tile divided into three images. Top left shows a camera, the word “cancer” and a fluorescent lamp emitting light. Bottom left is a lab with a microscope, the chemical symbol “Ge” and atomic number “32”. Right is a pre-industrial miner in a mine pushing a cart of mining debris.
5th Gymnasium of Mytilene
Mytilene, Lesvos, Greece
Teachers: Vasiliki Thomaidi and Maria Giannikou
Artist: Anna - Maria Tsokarou

This drawing was made in the context of chemistry and art lessons. When I heard about the topic, the first thing that came into my mind was a board game I used to play with my friends. It was about a few miners who were trying to find gold, just like Clemens Winkler who discovered germanium in a mine in 1886. So, the first part of my drawing depicts a miner. Next, I decided to draw some other applications of germanium. Generally, my drawing develops chronologically the whole story of Germanium.

Dysprosium, 66

Colored pencil and pen. A large Eiffel tower on the right with a French flag, plus wind turbines in the background. Above the atomic number “66” highlighted in orange. Left is the chemical symbol “Dy” being attracted to a horseshoe magnet. Four laser beams criss-cross the tile. Bottom right, the natural gray form of dysprosium.
Lexington High School
Lexington, South Carolina, U.S.A.
Teacher: Sam Oxley
Artist: Elizabeth Mulligan

The dysprosium artwork features a large Eiffel Tower on the right because the chemist that discovered this element, Paul Emile Lecoq de Boisbaudran, was French. On one leg of the tower, the year dysprosium was discovered (1886) is written. The atomic number is hanging from the top of the tile. Dysprosium is highly magnetic, so the symbol is shown being drawn towards a magnet. Along the bottom, there is a drawing of the element’s natural gray appearance. Red lasers and wind turbines are illustrated to emphasize the element’s practical applications.

Argon, 18

Digital image on bright purple background. A black silhouette of a sloth appears centre behind the chemical symbol “Ar” and the atomic number “18”. Additional symbols including a light bulb, crown and the silhouette of an argon gas canister.
Arnprior District High School
Arnprior, Ontario, Canada
Teacher: Cheryl Welbanks
Artist: Kaelyn Proulx

The name argon comes from a Greek word meaning lazy or inert because the element did not react very easily.  We represented the laziness of the element with the image of a sloth.  The crown represents that the element is a noble gas. The lightbulb represents how argon is used in incandescent lightbulbs so the filaments won't burn out.  The background colour was chosen as it represents the range of colours that argon appears in an electric field. Finally, the bottom image is a canister of gas as argon is used as a shielding gas in welding.

Fluorine, 9

Digital illustration in yellows and oranges. Chemical symbol “F” appears centre. Above “9”. Bottom “18.994”. Background shows electrolysis experiment used to generate fluorine.
Texas A&M University San Antonio
San Antonio, Texas, United States of America
Teacher: Dr. G. Robert Shelton
Artist: Kiarah Craft

Fluorine was first discovered by a French chemist named Henri Moissan in 1886. He isolated and discovered this element by passing electricity through hydrofluoric acid and potassium fluoride using electrolysis.

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1895-1904: europium, neon, krypton, xenon, polonium, radium, radon, actinium

Europium, 63

Pen and ink plus digital additions on white background. Chemical symbol “Eu” is centre written in fracturing concrete lettering. Surrounding are facts about Europium featuring a little rock mascot. Text in the image. 1. Europium is named after Europe. 2. This is Europium. It often has some yellow spots because it oxidizes with oil and water. 3. The metal dust presents a fire and explosion hazard. 4. Naturally occurring europium has 2 isotopes. 5. Europium was discovered in 1901 by Eugené-Anatole Demoçay aft
Dr. Aletta Jacobs College
Hoogezand, Groningen, Netherlands
Teacher: Dr. Michel Wijnhold
Artist: Caitlyn Vijlbrief

Europium is one of the more reactive elements from the Lanthanide series. It was discovered through early spectroscopy experiments in 1890 by P.E. Lecocq de Boisbaudran, but its discovery is credited to Eugène-Anatole Demarçay who was the first to isolate the element in its pure form in 1896.

When the countries of the European Union introduced their common currency (the euro), the element named after Europe was chosen to secure the 5 euro banknotes because Eu-compounds emit fluorescent light. This secret was revealed by Dutch chemists as they played around in the lab with the new currency. They never identified the exact compound because that would involve destroying a bank note, which constitutes a crime.

In my class, I have a very quiet student, who was always drawing and sketching things. Therefore I asked her to make this tile, since it would combine her love for art with her chemistry classes.

Neon, 10

Pen and acrylic on paper. Split face of Sir William Ramsay and Morris Travers appears centre on a bright yellow, orange and red background. Chemical symbol “Ne” to the left; “10” to the right. The United Kingdom’s national flag appears at the bottom.
Canadian International School Vietnam
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Teacher: Alex Love
Artist: Nguyen Truong Thu Ngoc

English scientists Sir William Ramsay and Morris Travers, the two faces in the centre of the tile, froze a sample of argon using liquid air in 1898.  They collected the first amount of gas that had evaporated, put the sample into an atomic spectrometer and observed a red light glowing from the gas.  This bright colour is the background presented in the artwork. Moreover, neon is the fifth most abundant element in the universe but it is rare on Earth. This element is used to make colourful and dashing neon lights, which can be seen in commercial signs.

Krypton, 36

Pencil and ink on white paper. Centre is the periodic table tile as a 3-d cube with chemical symbol “Kr”, “krypton”, and “36”. Above hangs a fluorescent light. Left is the British flag with “1898” on the mast. Right are three laser beams shooting behind the tile. Krypton as green crystal cubes are at the bottom. Background shows shaded hills and sky.
A.L. Fortune Secondary
Enderby, British Columbia, Canada
Teacher: Mrs. Annette Toop
Artist: Tristan Baumle

My initial idea was to have the element's symbol in the middle like a regular periodic table. Through my research I decided to include as many different uses of krypton I could. I started with the fluorescent light on the top of the artwork. In the background I included lasers, another use of krypton. The green cubic crystal shows krypton in its crystallized form. Finally, I put in the UK flag and the year for its discovery, 1898.

Xenon, 54

Pen and ink on white paper. Bohr model of xenon is at the centre with “Xenon”, “54” and “131.29” above. Around the image are “Noble Gas”, “Boiling point -108.099 C” and “Melting point -111.75 C”. Across the top is a roll of film with pictures containing a building, “colorless” with portrait of William Ramsay and Morris Travers, “odorless” with “July 1898”, and “unreactive”.
Frankfurt International School
Oberursel, Hessen, Germany
Teacher: Mr. Vee Kummari
Artist: Bronwyn Sandfield

At the top of my tile I drew a photo film, showing the discovery of the element. The first image shows the location, the University College London. The second, a drawing of the two discoverers, William Ramsay and Morris Travers. The last image shows the time in which it was discovered. I also wrote some of its characteristics on the side of the film; colorless, odorless and unreactive. I also added the boiling and melting points of the gas and showed that it is one of the noble gases.

Polonium, 84

Digital image. Multiple colours radiate out from a central image of the cubic crystal structure of pure polonium, plus “1898 A.D.” The chemical symbol “Po” and “84” appear above along with a radioactive symbol, a cigarette and the Polish flag. Additional elements appearing in the artwork are given in the description.
Beijing Jiaotong University (BJTU) (via the University of Waterloo)
Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
Teacher: Rick Marta
Artist: Xingeng (Vincent) Zhao; representing the 2018 class of BJTU Nano students

1. In 1898, Polish scientist, Marie Curie, first isolated polonium (Po) by processing many tons of the radioactive uranium ore called pitchblende.
2. Po has a unique simple cubic crystal structure.
3. Po is the first naturally occurring radioactive element encountered in the periodic table. Po is an alpha-particle emitter.
4. To honour the 150th anniversary of Russian scientist Dmitri Mendeleev’s periodic table, 150 years is written in Russian.
5. The 100th anniversary of IUPAC is honoured.
6. Tobacco can contain trace amounts of Po; a cigarette is shown to advise of another health hazard associated with smoking.

Radium, 88

 it is for all the people.”
Mount Royal University
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Teacher: Chris Lovallo
Artist: Alia McCracken, Casey Heirman

Students started with a Who-What-Where-When-Why  questionnaire to guide their research into radium. Excerpts of ideas regarding how to express their research visually are below:

What? Radioactive symbol - Drawing of hand holding radium depicting cellular and DNA damage.
Who? Drawing of Marie and Pierre Curie - Portraits of people involved in discovery
Where? Drawing of radium mines or Ecole de Physique - Drawing of Radium Hot Springs
When? Quoting Marie Curie, “Radium is an element, it belongs to the people” - Drawing of Marie and Pierre’s radioactive papers
Why? Glow-in-the-dark watch - People using radium for everyday use.

Radon, 86

Coloured pencil on white paper. The chemical symbol “Rn” and “86” appear centre. A small, blue Erlenmeyer flask sits above. Harriet Brooks is illustrated left; Ernest Rutherford right. At the bottom is a radioactive symbol.
Sycamore High School
Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S.A.
Teacher: Michael Geyer
Artist: SHS Chemistry Club

The hand-drawn artwork on this tile is the result of a very small group of students from our school's Chemistry Club, and one artist from a Chemistry class at our school. It depicts the two scientists who discovered radon, namely Ernest Rutherford and his research assistant, Harriet Brooks at McGill University. The universal symbol for radiation is included due to the nature of this element.

Actinium, 89

Coloured pencil on white background. The chemical symbol “Ac” written using the Eiffel tower and a croissant. Surrounding the central image are “89”, two boxing gloves punching each other with the French and German flags, a DNA strand, a radioactive symbol, a syringe, and three atomic symbols,
Emily Carr Secondary School
Woodbridge, Ontario, Canada
Teacher: Adriana DiPietro
Artist: ECSS STEM Club

Actinium was discovered in 1899 by a French chemist named André-Louis Debierne.  Debierne isolated actinium from a uranium-rich mineral ore.  In 1902, a German chemist named Friedrich Oskar Giesel independently discovered the element.  Since Debierne discovered the element first, he was the scientist who got to name it.  Actinium is a radioactive substance that glows blue.  It can be used in cancer treatment, but it can also cause damage to DNA.  Actinium can also be used as a source of neutrons.

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1905-1914: lutetium

Lutetium, 71

Charcoal on black paper. Portraits of Georges Urbain (centre foreground), and Karl Auer and Charles James (both in the background). To the right a French flag. In the lower right corner, the chemical symbol “Lu” and atomic number “71”.
Eastwood Collegiate Institute
Kitchener, Ontario, Canada
Teacher: Panda Marsh
Artist: Laili Rohani

Lutetium is a chemical element with symbol Lu and atomic number 71. It is a silvery-white metal, which resists corrosion in dry air, but not in moist air. Lutetium is the last element in the lanthanide series, and it is traditionally counted among the rare earth metals.  The honour of discovering lutetium went to Georges Urbain at the Sorbonne in Paris, since he was the first to report it.  Other chemists, namely Karl Auer in Germany and Charles James in the USA, having begun to isolate lutetium, were about to make the same discovery.

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1915-1924: hafnium, protactinium

Hafnium, 72

Coloured pencil on paper. A series of traditional row houses in Copenhagen. Above them, “Hafnium” and the atomic number “72”.
Urangan State High School
Torquay, Queensland, Australia
Teacher: Stephanie Whitehead
Artist: Tahlia Brookes

I came up with the design for the element tile of hafnium by learning about the history of the element and its properties. Hafnium was discovered in 1923 by Georg von Hevesy and Dirk Coster in Hafnia now known as Copenhagen. The city is often recognized for its bright houses that lines the canals as shown in my artwork. Also I coloured these houses in rainbow colours because when hafnium oxidizes, it forms a rainbow-coloured surface.

Protactinium, 91

 U-238, Th-234, Pa-234, U-234, Th-230, Ry-226, Rn-222, with At-218 off to the side. The blackboards reads "timeline of elements 2019".
Plano West Senior High School
Plano, Texas, U.S.A.
Teacher: Nicole Lyssy
Artist: Emily Ren

I used a black micron and white gellyroll pen on toned paper to create my artwork. Protactinium was first identified in 1913 by Kasimir Fajans and O.H. Gohring while they were studying uranium's decay chain. The artwork depicts Kasimir Fajans surrounded by an enlarged uranium decay chain diagram. His hands surround the element Pa, which is the focus of the artwork. The background of the image has a chalkboard that subtlety says "timeline of elements 2019" as an additional touch to the artwork.

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1925-1934: rhenium

Rhenium, 75

Digital composite. Chemical symbol “Re” and atomic number “75” are centre, both written in cursive script. Three fountain pens heads are pointing centre with a compass in the upper righthand side. The background is a 1690 map of the Rhine Valley in Germany.
Strathcona-Tweedsmuir School
Okotoks, Alberta, Canada
Teacher: Debra Carlson
Artist: Jake Baverstock

The rhenium element design was created using a black & white negative and positive graphic design, overlaid onto a 1690 map of the Rhine Valley in Germany (Cartographer De Witt). The final production looks at the history of the element but depicts it in a modern stylized work. The three fountain pens represent each main discoverer of the element, and rhenium’s early use in pen tips. The stylized “Re” and compass rose work to balance the artwork and give a feeling of the time-period. The dashed lines divide the map from the graphic design.

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