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Format:
Title:
A tale of seven elements
Other title(s):
Tale of 7 elements
ISBN:
9780195391312

9780199875030
Publication:
Oxford : Oxford University Press, [2013]
Physical Description:
xxxiii, 270 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
Contents:
Priority disputes and what constitutes the discovery of an element? -- Dalton, to the discovery of the periodic system -- The influence of modern physics -- Element 91, protactinium -- Element 72, hafnium -- Element 75, rhenium -- Element 43, technetium -- Element 87, francium -- Element 85, astatine -- Element 61, promethium -- Transuranium elements 93 and beyond.
Summary:
In 1913, English physicist Henry Moseley established an elegant method for ""counting"" the elements based on atomic number, ranging them from hydrogen (#1) to uranium (#92). It soon became clear, however, that seven elements were mysteriously missing from the line up--seven elements unknown to science. In his well researched and engagingly narrative, Eric Scerri presents the intriguing stories of these seven elements--protactinium, hafnium, rhenium, technetium, francium, astatine and promethium. The book follows the historical order of discovery, roughly spanning the two world wars, beginning.
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546 Scerri 2013
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546 SCERRI 2013
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Summary

Summary

In 1913, English physicist Henry Moseley established an elegant method for "counting" the elements based on atomic number, ranging them from hydrogen (#1) to uranium (#92). It soon became clear, however, that seven elements were mysteriously missing from the line up - seven elements unknown toscience.In his well researched and engagingly narrative, Eric Scerri presents the intriguing stories of these seven elements - protactinium, hafnium, rhenium, technetium, francium, astatine and promethium. The book follows the historical order of discovery, roughly spanning the two world wars, beginningwith the isolation of protactinium in 1917 and ending with that of promethium in 1945. For each element, Scerri traces the research that preceded the discovery, the pivotal experiments, the personalities of the chemists involved, the chemical nature of the new element, and its applications inscience and technology.We learn for instance that alloys of hafnium- w hose name derives from the Latin name for Copenhagen (hafnia) - have some of the highest boiling points on record and are used for the nozzles in rocket thrusters such as the Apollo Lunar Modules. Scerri also tells the personal tales of researchersovercoming great obstacles. We see how Lise Meitner and Otto Hahn - the pair who later proposed the theory of atomic fission -were struggling to isolate element 91 when World War I intervened, Hahn was drafted into the German army's poison gas unit, and Meitner was forced to press on alone againstdaunting odds. The book concludes by examining how and where the twenty-five new elements have taken their places in the periodic table in the last half century.A Tale of Seven Elements paints a fascinating picture of chemical research - the wrong turns, missed opportunities, bitterly disputed claims, serendipitous findings, accusations of dishonesty - all leading finally to the thrill of discovery.


Author Notes

Dr. Eric Scerri is a leading philosopher of science specializing in the history and philosophy of the periodic table. He is also the founder and editor in chief of the international journal Foundations of Chemistry and has been a full-time lecturer at UCLA for the past ten years where he regularly teaches classes of 350 chemistry students as well as classes in history and philosophy of science. He is the author of The Periodic Table: Its Story and ItsSignificance.


Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

U.C.L.A. professor Scerri (The Periodic Table: Its Story and Its Significance) details the fascinating backstories of the discoverers and discoveries of the last seven chemical elements in this engaging scientific history. The author begins by explaining how chemist Dimitri Mendeleev's 19th-century periodic table not only organized atoms into families, but also revealed lacunae where yet-to-be-discovered atoms should fit. By 1913, the seven eponymous elements-protactinium, hafnium, rhenium, technetium, francium, astatine, and promethium-had been predicted but not yet found. Twentieth-century insights into atomic structure allowed English physicist Henry Moseley to reorganize the modern periodic table according to atomic number rather than weight, and modern physics gave scientists the tools to finally find the missing elements, from silvery protractinium to superhard rhenium and the rare earth element promethium. Scerri enriches each minihistory with anecdotes of bitter rivalries, professional and personal frustrations, "scientific chicanery," and obsessive "pathological science" done in search of the hypothesized elements and the fame that would accompany their discovery. This brief and intriguing tale offers insights into the research process as well as the history of the periodic table as researchers vied to break new ground. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Choice Review

Scerri (UCLA), a pioneer in the modern movement to describe chemistry through the lens of world history, complements his previous works, The Periodic Table: Its Story and Its Significance (CH, Sep'07, 45-0289) and The Periodic Table: A Very Short Introduction (CH, Sep'12, 50-0289), with A Tale of Seven Elements. This new book offers an exclusive focus on the protracted discoveries of the seven most elusive elements, despite their conspicuous presence predicted by De Chancourtois, Newlands, Odling, Hinrichs, (Lothar) Meyer, and Mendeleev. Scerri's yarns of the many spurious and nonreproducible claims that plagued each element's discovery entertainingly underscore the urgency yet seeming impossibility of such an undertaking. Unique to this book are original quotes and photographs, transporting readers to an era when research and professional notoriety were profoundly influenced by religious bigotry; aptly, each chapter dedicated to elemental discovery concludes by returning to the 21st century with discussions of current applications. Unfortunately, the target audience is often incongruous, as Scerri uses pages to explain atomic orbitals and quantum numbers, yet presumes the audience has implicit knowledge of isotopes, radioactive decay, and spectroscopy, thereby disregarding the colossal importance of these tools in elemental discovery. Still, Seven Elements offers an enjoyable reflection into chemical history. Summing Up: Recommended. Lower-division undergraduates and general readers. D. L. Jacobs Rider University


Library Journal Review

Scerri (chemistry & biochemistry, Univ. of California, Los Angeles; The Periodic Table: Its Story and Significance) presents a narrative about seven elements missing from Henry Moseley's 1913 counting method for elements in the periodic table. These "missing" elements, discovered from 1920 to 1945, are scattered over the different groups in the table. The stories behind each one's discovery and uses provide insight into the social and political relationships among scientists of the time. Scerri does a nice job of connecting scientific insight into the isolation and discovery of each element with technical details. -VERDICT With his mixed approach of using both the social and the scientific context to tell each element's story, Scerri supplements more specialized reference works and provides material for all scientists searching for further insight into the elements and the relationships among them. Recent popular works exploring the intersections between the personal and the scientific include Sam Kean's The Disappearing Spoon and William F. Bynum's A Little History of Science. This is highly recommended for all curious science readers and historians of science.-Elizabeth A. Brown, Binghamton Univ. Libs., NY (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Table of Contents

Prefacep. ix
An A-Z of Acknowledgmentsp. xi
Introductionp. xiii
1 From Dalton to the Discovery of the Periodic Systemp. 1
2 The Invasion of the Periodic Table by Physicsp. 40
3 Element 91-Protactiniump. 58
4 Element 72-Hafniump. 84
5 Element 75-Rheniump. 100
6 Element 43-Technetiump. 116
7 Element 87-Franciump. 144
8 Element 85-Astatinep. 165
9 Element 61-Promethiump. 175
10 From Missing Elements to Synthetic Elementsp. 195
Notesp. 209
Bibliographyp. 235
Author Indexp. 245
Indexp. 249