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Posts Tagged ‘edward mazurs’

Finally, after months of waiting and effort, the two videos on the history of the periodic table are complete. Here they are:

The title of this video is:   The Periodic Table Part 1: Before Mendeleev

It’s YouTube links are: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tQghZkTyqP4 (Part 1-A) and  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v-SBTYQNAcM (Part 1-B)


The title of this video is: The Periodic Table Part 2: Mendeleev and Beyond

The YouTube links are: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a9tTcOnoNko (Part 2-A) and: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7msPp2QYrCk (Part 2-B)

They feature interviews with Dr. Eric Scerri of UCLA, to which I have added my own narration, animations, illustrations, photos, captions, etc. as well as publication artwork and notes by Edward G. Mazurs (see my previous Periodic Tables posts). I have edited the videos into two parts. Part 1 covers the events leading up to Mendeleev’s invention of the periodic table including the work of several precursors such as de Chancourtois, Newlands, Odling, Hinrichs, and Meyer. The second part covers Mendeleev’s working out of his periodic system and the work of his successors, as well as some interesting questions such as whether the periodic table can be entirely deduced from quantum mechanics and the mystery of the Knight’s Move pattern of properties. Part 1 is 17 minutes long and Part 2 is just under 20 minutes. I am very pleased with the results; I’ve been using every spare minute to complete the editing which is why I haven’t posted here for so long. I hope you feel it is worth the wait. Please let me know what you think!

Knights move image

The Knight's Move Pattern: Zn to Sn

In addition to placing them into this specific post, I will set up a separate page on this blog just for the completed videos. So far I’ve done the rationale video in two parts, now these two on the periodic table, and more will follow as soon as possible. The next will be on the mining and refining of beryllium ore, then on glass blowing, and so on. I have materials (video, photos, etc.) for about 30 episodes already and will get more as student teams begin to complete projects. I will also post these episodes to YouTube but will have to cut each part in two since you can only do ten minutes at a time on YouTube. I also plan on creating a completely separate website just for these videos so that I can place my own metadata on them and upload them to Apple iTunes as podcasts. As these steps are completed, I’ll post information here.

Next week I travel to Philadelphia to present this project at the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) conference. My presentation will be on Saturday, March 20 at 9:30 in Room D-17 of the Pennsylvania Convention Center. I hope to do a few posts from the conference. Looking through the program, I see several names I recognize among the presenters from my years of facilitating educational workshops for NASA, so it will be fun to see them again. I also hope to work out corporate sponsorship of this project, including funding, so that I can finally begin Phase II to have teams of student in Utah, Colorado, and Nevada start to create their own episodes of the mining and chemical manufacturing in their communities. It will be a very busy week getting ready for the conference. I’ll post again in a few days once all the uploading and links have been created to these videos.

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I’ve been neglecting to write this blog for the last few weeks, what with the usual Christmas rush. Now that New Years is done, I’m resolved to write more often, at least twice per week. Another reason I’ve been neglectful is that I’ve been quite busy working on episodes of the videos for The Elements Unearthed project, especially the episodes on the history of the periodic table where I interviewed Dr. Eric Scerri of UCLA. He is the author of The Periodic Table: Its Story and Its Significance by Oxford Press.

Book by Dr. Eric Scerri

During the last few weeks I’ve transcribed his interview and sent it to him to look over for revisions, as well as the drafts of the episode scripts. He has been most gracious to provide suggestions that have greatly improved the scripts. Because of the detail of the interview, I’m going to divide it into two parts, the first on the precursors to Mendeleev and the second on Mendeleev and beyond. Each should be about 15 minutes when complete. I will upload a compressed version of each episode here once they are done (another two weeks, tops – I have quite a few client projects happening right now, too) as well as the finished transcript of the interview and the episode scripts. I’ll also upload them to a dedicated video site and then uplink them to iTunes and YouTube.

In preparation for these episodes, I’ve been cleaning up the photos I took this last summer at the Chemical Heritage Foundation of the Edward G. Mazurs collected notes, which he prepared over several decades for his book Graphical Representations of the Periodic System During 100 Years, which he self-published in 1957 and which was then revised and published by the University of Alabama Press in 1974.

Mazurs_books

Books by Edward G. Mazurs

He classified over 700 different periodic tables, and his notes filled ten three-ring binders. I also was able to photograph the production artwork that was used for the books. It dawned on me while I was doing the clean-up that I didn’t actually have any photographs of the final books, so I traveled over to Brigham Young University’s library two weeks ago and found both editions on the shelves, as well as Jan van Spronsen’s book and a book in Russian with photos of Mendeleev, his notes. and his laboratory. I photographed all the relevant pages, including any photographs or portraits of the people who contributed to the development of the periodic table, including such people as Alexandre Emile Beguyer de Chancourtois, who developed his Telluric Screw in 1862 which shows the first discovery of the periodic law: that the properties of the elements seem to repeat periodically.

de_Chancourtois

A. E. Beguyer de Chancourtois

Finding the 1957 edition of Mazurs’ book is quite rare, since not many were printed. While I was there, I looked up an article I remember reading in Chemistry magazine back in the 1970s on various forms of the periodic table. It’s funny how memory can play tricks on you, however. What I thought was a major article showing various forms of the table in full color was actually a short article showing one form of the table (although it was in full color). I apparently have a better memory for images than for text; my memory had expanded and aggrandized the article into something much more than it was. But the table was interesting, and here is a photo of it:

Continuous-form_periodic_table

Continuous-form periodic table, 1975

I was also struck as I was preparing these images from Mazurs’ notes how some of the more exotic continuous-form periodic tables look remarkably like images of strange attractors in fractal mathematics. I’ve been playing around with an interesting free-ware program called Chaoscope trying to come up with similar images and here are a few samples comparing Mazurs’ notes and artwork with fractal patterns. Wouldn’t it be fun if some bored mathematician was able to show that the unusual pattern of the periodic system (created by the quantum mechanics of electron orbital filling in successive atoms) followed a fractal equation? I’m afraid I’m not much of a mathematician, but I can make some pretty pictures now and then. Anyway, from a visual standpoint, the similarities are amazing.

Notes_by_Mazurs

Strange forms of the periodic table by Edward Mazurs

chaoscope_render_1

Render from Chaoscope

Triple_sprial_artwork

Artwork for Mazurs books

Lorenz_attractor

Lorenz strange attractor from Chaoscope

Strange_attractor_artwork

Artwork from Edward G. Mazurs book

strange_attractor_chaoscope

Render from Chaoscope

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    With my daughter safely back in Utah beginning her freshman year at the Univeristy of Utah and the ISPC symposium done, I have returned this week to documenting/ photographing books related to this project. I have progressed to the early modern period (18th and 19th Centuries) and the foundations of modern chemistry (what Robert Boyle at the time called “Chymistry”). I have, in fact, photographed a 1680 edition of his “Sceptical Chymist” (the 1661 that CHF has is so rare that I don’t dare touch it). The 1680 edition has the advantage of having some additional notes by Boyle published in the back. It was very interesting reading through the text and finding references to Paracelsus and Van Helmont. He wrote the book as a dialogue between several people, the main voice being an experimental chemist who argued for overthrowing the Aristotelian ideas that had dominated chemistry for so long. Because Boyle advocates experimentation and observation over dogma, this book is considered the birthplace of chemistry as a science. Boyle also speaks out in favor of a “corpuscular” theory of matter, reviving the long neglected atomic matter theory. In his words:

Page from "The Sceptical Chymist"

Page from "The Sceptical Chymist"

” … there may be some Clusters of Particles, wherein the Particles are so minute, and the Coherence so strict, or both, that when Bodies of Differing Denominations, and consisting of such durable Clusters, happen to be mingl’d, though the Compound Body made up of them may be very Differing from either of the Ingredients, yet each of the little Masses or Clusters may so retain its own Nature, as to be again separable, such as it was before. As, when Gold and Silver being melted together in a Due Proportion . . . Aqua Fortis will dissolve the Silver, and leave the Gold untoucht.” (Pp. 152-153)

 

Molecule diagrams by John Dalton

Molecule diagrams by John Dalton

    I’ve also been photographing works by Amedeo Avogadro, John Dalton (a first edition of his landmark 1808 book A New System of Chemical Philosophy), Antoine Lavoisier, Nicholas Lemery (who wrote a textbook on chemistry in 1675), Humphry Davy, and others.

Diagram from "Elements of Chemistry" by Lavoisier

Diagram by Lavoisier

    I have continued to photograph a few more technical books as well, including the amazing  Amphitheatrum sapiente by Heinrich Khunrath and the wonderful Utrisque cosmi maioris by Robert Fludd. Both have detailed illustrations. Khunrath’s book has engravings that are so packed it would take hours to find all the information they contain, and Fludd was a polymath similar to Leonardo Da Vinci;

Khunrath illustration

Khunrath illustration

his book covers all kinds of subjects from astrology to the creation of the elements to practical geometry to musical mathematic theory (and how to tune a lute) to how to build a water clock that plays music to how to draw the human face to how to build military fortifications (including a cannon battlement that can be moved forward on wheels – much like Da Vinci’s armored tank)

Robert Fludd movable battlement

Robert Fludd movable battlement

. . . anyway, it was a fun book to look at, and I am amazed at the level of knowledge and technology it displays given it was written between 1617 and 1634.

Comparison of Periodic Tables before Mendeleev

Comparison of Periodic Tables before Mendeleev

    My biggest discovery this week has been a collection in our archives of the notes of Edward Mazurs, who wrote the definitive work on classifying different systems of periodic tables in 1957 with  a revised edition in 1974 (Graphic Representations of the Periodic System During One Hundred Years; University of Alabama Press). Mazurs was a professor of chemistry at the University of Riga in Latvia until he escaped the Soviet occupation following World War II. After working for many years at Argo Corn Products in Chicago, first as a janitor and later as a chemist,  he retired from Argo and moved to Santa Barbara, CA where he taught at Westmont College.

Wooden periodic table by Edward Mazurs

Wooden periodic table by Edward Mazurs

He collected articles and wrote extensive, detailed notes on every version of the periodic table he could find as it developed from its start in the early 1860s with the work of de Chancourtois through 1974. All of those notes have been donated to CHF and fill up ten binders, with meticulous drawings, charts, tables, and frequent additions and changes. There are also some pieces of the original artwork prepared for the book, and a wooden model of the periodic table Mazurs built himself. I am including photos of a few of the more interesting forms of the table here.

Periodic table shaped like rabbit ears

Periodic table shaped like rabbit ears

Spiral-form periodic table

Spiral-form periodic table

 

 

 

 

 

 

    As for me, I’ve struggled for years to teach the periodic law to first-year chemistry students and find the structure of the common medium-format table to be a hindrance when explaining the electronic structure of atoms. The order of electron orbital filling is simply too hard to grasp using the usual table. Mazurs came to the conclusion – and so have I – that a left-step table works best, as shown here. As one progressed through the eight periods (rows) one adds electron orbitals in the correct order. The only remaining problem is the First Period – hydrogen is OK in the alkali metal column (that’s where it usually is placed) but helium doesn’t belong in the alkaline earth family, at least not chemically (although it does electronically as it has filled an s-orbital).

Left-step periodic table

Left-step periodic table

    Perhaps hydrogen and helium should be floated above the main table as they are now in the medium-long format. But that is for chemical theorists and philosophers to debate on. In the meantime, I continue to photograph a few more books in my remaining week at CHF, then packing up and driving back to Utah. I had hoped to have an episode or two completely done by now, but have made the decision to spend my time at CHF acquiring more materials rather than editing; the final edits will have to wait until I get back to Utah. Sorry about the delay, but by the end of September the first two podcast episodes will be done. With what I plan on videotaping on my way back to Utah and what we already have done, there will be enough material to make approximately 30 episodes. Now I just need to find the time and funds to edit it all.

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