Fermilab’s celebration of the International Year of the Periodic Table kicks off on Wednesday, June 25, at 3:15 p.m.
It starts with a piece of cake. Fermilab Colloquium hosts will serve attendees cake shaped as the Periodic Table of elements at 3:15 p.m. in the Wilson Hall second-floor crossover. The celebration continues with the premiere of a Fermilab video on the Periodic Table and a show-and-tell poster on the UNESCO IYPT. This will be followed by the traditional director’s coffee break.
It caps off with the Colloquium presentation by Princeton University’s Michael Gordin, who will be on hand for the festivities. Join us at 4:00 PM in One West to hear him tell us what the periodic table’s creator, D. I. Mendeleev, did and did not do 150 years ago.
In 1869, Mendeleev, then a young chemistry professor in St. Petersburg, formulated his version of the system of elements. The choice of date is somewhat arbitrary. There were five other attempts at periodic tables postulated earlier in the 1860s, some of which resemble our present version slightly more than Mendeleev’s in certain respects. Also, the main achievement of Mendeleev’s table — its predictive capacity — was also a gradual process that began in 1869 but took many years to cement his international reputation.
Gordin’s talk will explore what Mendeleev did in 1869, how it related to what came before and after, and a few of the myths that have accumulated around his work.
Chris Stoughton is a Fermilab scientist and the chair of the Fermilab Colloquium Committee, which organizes the Colloquium series.