Is It Time to Upend the Periodic Table?

Griffith Littlehale

July 22, 2022

Griffith Littlehale - Periodic Table: Is It Time to Upend It?

It’s about time to rethink the periodic table. For more than 150 years, it has served chemistry well, but discoveries are stretching the limits of its structure. This article examines the periodic table, its elements, and Feynman’s explanation of periodicity. We don’t know for sure if it’s time to change the periodic table, but the answer is probably yes.


Mendeleev, the inventor of the periodic table, was not the first to attempt to discover order within the elements. He began by writing down the properties of each element on cards and arranging them in ascending order of atomic weight. Over time, he realized that certain elements appeared regularly, such as a very reactive nonmetal followed by a light metal. This led him to develop an organizational scheme for the elements. He eventually changed the periodic table to vertical columns.

The researchers have been aware of the new elements for several years but waited until the IUPAC approved the names. Eventually, they will submit permanent names for these elements. They may also use mythological concepts, minerals, places, or scientists to give them new names. In the meanwhile, scientists employ temporary names. Ununseptium, element 117, and livermorium and flerovium are superheavy elements.


Atomic number organizes the periodic table. Each block contains elements with a particular subshell of electrons. First are alkali and alkaline earth metals. The following 10 groups on the periodic chart are transition metals. The next six blocks are called the p-block and consist of elements that belong to the groups of noble gases and metalloids.

The periodic table structure has several versions, some of which are easier to understand than others. The table is divided into groups based on their chemical properties, solubility, and occurrence in geological deposits. Its parts are labeled differently to distinguish between halogens and nonmetals. The most common periodic table is that of A. Werner. However, other periodic tables are also available.

Mendeleev’s changes

While studying the alkaline earth, Mendeleev noted the similarities between the progression of atomic weights of various elements and wondered if similar properties were found in other groups of elements. His observations led him to organize the elements into groups by atomic weight and create the periodic law. This law now governs the periodic table. And because of its clarity and simplicity, it is the standard reference for scientists.

Mendeleev was able to use the information he gained to refine his periodic table further. After releasing the 1871 table, he found flaws in certain patterns and undiscovered components. He used his new data to predict missing elements and added a row for them. The scientific community eventually accepted the change. He is the one who first published the periodic table.

Feynman’s explanation of periodicity

Physicist Richard Feynman’s Nobel Prize-winning explanation of periodicity in the universe has a cult following among scientists and non-specialists alike. In this three-volume explanation of periodicity, he joins a long line of famous physicists who have penned a ‘grand vista’ for the scientific community. His view is ‘elementary’ but joyous.

The simplicity of Feynman’s diagrams deceives students. It takes a mentor to explain this concept to physicists, and even then, these diagrams are not intuitive. The diagrams were originally spread by letter but couldn’t be taught through correspondence courses, which involve transferring information far from the face-to-face encounters of the teachers. Eventually, Feynman tutored Freeman Dyson, who shared his ideas with the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. Afterward, the members of Princeton passed the ideas on to others.

Impact on chemistry

The periodic table is an important scientific tool that has greatly influenced modern chemistry. Mendeleev, a Russian chemist, devised it in 1869 and argued that it was the best way to classify all the chemical elements. However, the table isn’t without controversy. Its use has led to several changes, including renaming some elements and creating new elements.

The first period was based on the atomic weights of elements. The order of the elements on the periodic table changed dramatically, but the basic principles remained the same. For example, iodine and tellurium fell into their proper groups based on their chemical behavior, and they would have been inverted had Godovikov ordered them strictly by their atomic weights.


It’s been 150 years since the discovery of the periodic table, but the purpose of the periodic table has changed dramatically. From being a useful research tool to making predictions, the periodic table has a much different purpose: pedagogic. As a result, scientists are exploring new ways to make the periodic table more useful and meaningful. Some exciting changes are underway, and one of these is a proposal to change the role of Title IX in the fight against sexual harassment in US academia.

We’ll soon have a final version of the periodic table with all the known elements. However, we’ll have to make some compromises along the way. For example, we’ll need to use superpowerful beams of ions and ship radioactive materials across borders.