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The early periodic table


With the discovery of over 50 elements by the 1860s, scientists began to try to sort the elements into a logical sequence by identifying patterns in their chemical properties. The work of John Newlands and Dmitri Mendeleev in developing early periodic tables, ultimately led to the development of the modern periodic table.

Newlands’ octaves

Portrait of John Newlands

John Newlands

An English scientist called John Newlands put forward his Law of Octaves in 1864. He arranged all the elements [element: A substance made of one type of atom only. known at the time into a table in order of relative atomic mass [relative atomic mass: The relative atomic mass is the number of times heavier an atom is compared to one twelth of a carbon-12 atom..

When he did this, he found a pattern among the early elements. The pattern showed that each element was similar to the element eight places ahead of it.

For example, starting at Li (lithium), Be (beryllium) is the second element, B (boron) is the third and Na (sodium) is the eighth element. He then put the similar elements into vertical columns, known as groups.

Part of Newlands' table

H Li Be B C N O
F Na Mg Al Si P S
Cl K Ca Cr Ti Mn Fe

Regular repeats

Newlands' table showed a repeating or periodic pattern of properties [property: A chemical property is any characteristic that gives a substance the ability to undergo a change that results in a new substance., but this pattern eventually broke down.

By ordering strictly according to atomic mass [atomic mass: The mass of an atomic particle, sub-atomic particle or molecule compared to 1/12th the mass of a carbon-12 atom., Newlands was forced to put some elements into groups which did not match their chemical properties.

For example, he put iron (Fe), which is a metal, in the same group as oxygen (0) and sulfur (S), which are two non-metals.

As a result, his table was not accepted by other scientists.



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