This year we are celebrating 150 years of the Periodic Table of Elements. It is a landmark considering the pivotal and stellar position that this wonderful piece of scientific art or artistic science — whichever way you prefer to look at it — occupies in the progress, growth and development of science, especially modern science. The Periodic Table is the one entity which binds the two different branches of science — Physics and Chemistry together. It is also the first encounter of any school student with the fascinating world of science. If in doubt, consider how the study of Chemistry would look like had there been no such periodic classification of elements. That this classification exists, implies that you do not have to study and rote learn the properties of each individual element, instead just understanding the properties of a ‘group’ would suffice. It made the life of chemists and modern physicists so much easier! And not just that, the Periodic Table had provision (’empty slots’) for yet undiscovered elements. This way, it revealed the pattern in the nature around us and at the same time opened doors to the ingredients of the nature which were not yet known. Several names like Lothar Mayer, Dimitri Mendeleev and Moseley are associated with the history of the Periodic Table. While reading this history, every student participates in the logical reasoning and scientific thinking which went into the development of this process of classification. In a way it was all about observing and noting the pattern in the properties of elements found in nature. That everything fell into such an elegant piece of art must have been really exhilarating for the scientists of that time.
Charm for the periodic table is mostly on account of its history, the pattern in properties of elements, and the graphical way of understanding the concepts. These are the factors which appeal to the students. At the same time, they might be overwhelmed by the amount of information presented to them, which might be too much for some students. However, it cannot be avoided because, as I mentioned earlier, a lot of understanding of subsequent concepts depends on a clear understanding of the Periodic Table.
Today I will share my views with you on the book The Periodic Table: A Visual Guide to the Elements by Tom Jackson. There would never be a better time to release a book on Periodic Table than this landmark year. And the author, the illustrator and the publisher need to be congratulated and appreciated for this gesture. The first impression of the book conveys beyond any doubt the amount of care and hard work that has gone into creating this book. Every page of the book screams beauty. Illustrations are made in bright colour and in different shades. These figures are assigned appropriate labels, captions and footnotes to understand the various aspects of the periodic table. At some of the points, especially where the writer explains the relation of group number and period number with the number of protons or number of shells, I felt that the traditional textbook method is much easier than the presented verbal explanation. The book claims to provide the reader a pictorial or graphical introduction to the Periodic Table, and yes, it does deliver what it promised.
The contents of the book are broadly divided into four chapters. The first chapter “The Periodic Table” is an introduction to the Periodic Table, and gives an overview of the atomic structure, atomic dimensions, how to interpret the Periodic Table, history of periodic tables and the alternative tables. The second chapter “The Big Picture” shows where does the Periodic Table fit in the general scheme of things. It discusses the various properties of elements like reactivity, hardness, strength, conductivity, magnetism, and spectra. Also included are an overview of elements on earth, the human body composition and universal abundance. The third chapter “Inside Chemistry” goes into details of the various concepts of Chemistry such as states of matter, metallic, ionic and covalent bonds, reactions, mixtures, radioactivity, stability, pH values, and Organic Chemistry. The fourth and final chapter is titled “Directory of Elements” and that’s what it is viz., pictorial overview of properties of various elements from carbon to argon, and from potassium to uranium.
Perhaps you had studied and still remember the Periodic Table, or perhaps you are working in scientific research and the Periodic Table is your everyday bread and butter. Still, this book would surely make a great addition to your collection. Such books are very rare which synthesize science and art in such beautiful blend.
Author: Tom Jackson
Publisher: White Lion Publishing
Book Length: 224 pages
What does it mean?