The Periodic Table is arguably the most important concept in chemistry, both in principle and in practice. It is the everyday support for students, it suggests new avenues of research to professionals, and it provides a succinct organization of the whole of chemistry. It is a remarkable demonstration of the fact that the chemical elements are not a random cluster of entities but instead display trends and lie together in families.
An awareness of the Periodic Table is essential to anyone who wishes to disentangle the world and see how it is built up from the fundamental building blocks of the chemistry, the chemical elements. Glenn T. Seaborg
In this Unit, we will study the historical development of the Periodic Table as it stands today and the Modern Periodic Law. We will also learn how the periodic classification follows as a logical consequence of the electronic configuration of atoms. Finally, we shall examine some of the periodic trends in the physical and chemical properties of the elements.
WHY DO WE NEED TO CLASSIFY ELEMENTS ?
We know by now that the elements are the basic units of all types of matter. In 1800, only 31 elements were known. By 1865, the number of identified elements had more than doubled to 63. At present 114 elements are known. Of them, the recently discovered elements are man-made. Efforts to synthesise new elements are continuing. With such a large number of elements it is very difficult to study individually the chemistry of all these elements and their innumerable compounds individually. To ease out this problem, scientists searched for a systematic way to organise their knowledge by classifying the elements. Not only that it would rationalize known chemical facts about elements, but even predict new ones for undertaking further study.
GENESIS OF PERIODIC CLASSIFICATION :
Classification of elements into groups and development of Periodic Law and Periodic Table are the consequences of systematising the knowledge gained by a number of scientists through their observations and experiments. The German chemist, Johann Dobereiner in early 1800’s was the first to consider the idea of trends among properties of elements. By 1829 he noted a similarity among the physical and chemical properties of several groups of three elements (Triads). In each case, he noticed that the middle element of each of the Triads had an atomic weight about half way
between the atomic weights of the other two. Also the properties of the middle element were in between those of the other two members. Since Dobereiner’s relationship, referred to as the Law of Triads, seemed to
work only for a few elements, it was dismissed as coincidence. The next reported attempt to classify elements was made by a French geologist, A.E.B. de Chancourtois in 1862. He arranged the then known elements in order of increasing atomic weights and made a cylindrical table of elements to display the
periodic recurrence of properties. This also did not attract much attention. The English chemist, John Alexander Newlands in 1865 profounded the Law of Octaves. He arranged the elements in increasing order of their atomic weights and noted that every eighth element had properties similar to the first element. The relationship was just like every eighth note that resembles the first in octaves of music. Newlands’s Law of Octaves seemed to be true only for elements up to calcium. Although his idea was not widely accepted at
that time, he, for his work, was later awarded Davy Medal in 1887 by the Royal Society, London.
The Periodic Law, as we know it today owes its development to the Russian chemist, Dmitri Mendeleev (1834-1907) and the German chemist, Lothar Meyer (1830-1895). Working independently, both the chemists in 1869 proposed that on arranging elements in the
increasing order of their atomic weights, similarities appear in physical and chemical properties at regular intervals. Lothar Meyer plotted the physical properties such as atomic volume, melting point and boiling point
against atomic weight and obtained a periodically repeated pattern. Unlike Newlands, Lothar Meyer observed a change in length of that repeating pattern. By 1868, Lothar Meyer had developed a table of the elements that closely resembles the Modern
Periodic Table. However, his work was not published until after the work of Dmitri Mendeleev, the scientist who is generally credited with the development of the Modern Periodic Table.
While Dobereiner initiated the study of
periodic relationship, it was Mendeleev who
was responsible for publishing the Periodic
Law for the first time. It states as follows :
The properties of the elements are a
periodic function of their atomic
Mendeleev arranged elements in horizontal rows and vertical columns of a table in order of their increasing atomic weights in such a way that the elements with similar properties occupied the same vertical column or group.Mendeleev’s system of classifying elements was
more elaborate than that of Lothar Meyer’s. He fully recognized the significance of periodicity and used broader range of physical and chemical properties to classify the elements. In particular, Mendeleev relied on
the similarities in the empirical formulas and properties of the compounds formed by the elements. He realized that some of the elements did not fit in with his scheme of classification if the order of atomic weight was strictly followed. He ignored the order of atomic
weights, thinking that the atomic measurements might be incorrect, and placed the elements with similar properties together. For example, iodine with lower atomic weight than that of tellurium (Group VI) was placed in Group VII along with fluorine, chlorine,
bromine because of similarities in properties.At the same time, keeping his primary aim of arranging the elements of similar properties in the same group, he
proposed that some of the elements were still undiscovered and, therefore, left several gaps in the table. For example, both gallium and germanium were unknown at the time Mendeleev published his Periodic Table. He left the gap under aluminium and a gap under
silicon, and called these elements Eka-Aluminium and Eka-Silicon. Mendeleev predicted not only the existence of gallium and germanium, but also described some of their general physical properties. These elements were discovered later. Some of the properties predicted by Mendeleev for these elements and those found experimentally are listed.
The boldness of Mendeleev’s quantitative predictions and their eventual success made him and his Periodic Table famous. Mendeleev’s Periodic Table published in 1905.