Eric Scerri: A tale of 7 elements
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The iconic status of the periodic table of the elements has been recognized by a variety of prominent chemists and historians of science. For example, John Emsley proclaimed: “As long as chemistry is studied there will be a periodic table. And even if someday we communicate with another part of the universe, we can be sure that one thing that both cultures will have in common is an ordered system of the elements that will be instantly recognizable by both intelligent life forms” (Emsley 1998).
Furthermore, its paramount significance is universally recognized even far beyond the field of chemistry. According to the late American astronomer Harlow Shapley (1885–1972), “[The periodic table] is probably the most compact and meaningful compilation of knowledge that man has yet devised. The periodic table does for matter what the geological age table does for cosmic time. Its history is the story of man’s great conquests in the microcosmos” (Shapley 1958).
Of course, philosopher of science...
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