One of the chemistry professors at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland has made a historical discovery: the oldest periodic table in the world.
A professor of chemistry in Scotland has made a historical discovery while ordering a deposit from the university: the oldest periodic table in the world, dating from 1885 and written in German according to experts.
The room in which the table was found, had served as the old chemistry department, which was changed to another location in the decade of the 60s. Professor Alan Aitken discovered rolled documents while ordering this former chemistry department, among the that was the periodic table of 1885, which is the oldest known in the world as claimed by the university.
This discovery was made in 2014, but the periodic table was in restoration until this year, which has been exhibited in public.
Dmitri Mendeleev was the Russian chemist who presented the well-known version of the periodic table in 1869. The Scottish table is similar to this one but not exactly the same, as it has annotations in German and an inscription on the lower left side that says “Verlag v Lenoir & Foster, Wien “, that is to say, the house of printers of Vienna.
Another of the inscriptions that the document has is the following: “Lith. von Ant. Hartinger & Sohn, Wien. ” This inscription refers to the lithographer of the table, who died in 1890.
The expert in the history of the periodic table and professor of the University of California Eric Scerri showed that the table had been printed between the years 1879 and 1886, and affirms that it is a unique document.
To conclude these dates Scerri relied on the chemical elements that were present in the table and those that were missing. The elements of the table discovered between 1875 and 1879, which were gallium and scandium, are found in the table; in contrast, germanium is not in the table, and was discovered in 1886.
This document is very fragile, and when it was found it broke into pieces due to its poor conservation, so the process to restore it was complicated. Chemical products were used as magnesium bicarbonate, with which to reduce its acidity.
The parts that were broken were repaired with Japanese kozo fiber paper, a plant used to make high quality paper.
An annotation of 1888 has also been found in the center’s records in connection with the purchase of a 1885 table by the chemistry professor Thomas Purdie. Therefore it is believed that this is the periodic table commissioned by Purdie to Vienna, and it seems to be the only one that still exists from that time.
The University of St. Andrews is looking for tables that date from the same or even older dates that could be found at other universities. In addition, this year is a special moment for chemistry, since 2019 has been declared by the United Nations the International Year of the Periodic Table, since it is the 150th anniversary of the presentation of the Mendeleev table.