A Tale of Seven Elements

Hardcover | May 22, 2013

byEric Scerri

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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.

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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 engagin...

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 twelve years where he regularly teaches classes of 350 chemistry stude...

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:200 pages, 8.25 × 5.5 × 0.98 inPublished:May 22, 2013Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195391314

ISBN - 13:9780195391312

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Table of Contents

Preface: What constitutes the discovery of an element?1. Dalton, to the Discovery of the Periodic System2. van den Broek, Moseley and the missing seven elements.3. Element 91, protactinium4. Element 72, hafnium5. Element 75, rhenium6. Element 43, technetium7. Element 87, francium8. Element 85, astatine9. Element 61, promethium