A history of the periodic table.
A history of the periodic table.
The state of the universe.
July 19 2005 8:15 AM


Is it time to revamp the periodic table?


Click here to see a slide show. Oxford ecologist Philip Stewart has designed a new periodic table of the elements, and it's a hit. American schools are placing orders daily for Stewart's table, and the Royal Society of Chemists recently sent a copy to every British secondary school. Stewart's is the only remake to achieve widespread adoption since Dmitri Mendeleev invented the original periodic table in a fit of brilliance in 1869.

Mendeleev's table, a celebrated example of the visual display of quantitative information, transformed chemistry (and triggered imitations cataloguing everything from breakfast cereals to sex positions to neo-nerds). The table inspired thinkers including Primo Levi and C.P. Snow. "I could scarcely sleep for excitement the night after seeing the periodic table," Oliver Sacks wrote in his 2001 memoir Uncle Tungsten.


What can we expect from Stewart's new version—and is it time to scrap Mendeleev's old one? Click here for a slideshow about the periodic table.

Jon Lackman is writing a doctoral dissertation on the use of invective in art criticism.

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