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Periodic Table

2019: The year the periodic table gets its due

Join C&EN as we celebrate 150 years of chemistry’s most iconic symbol

by Bibiana Campos Seijo
January 7, 2019 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 97, Issue 1


The periodic table is everywhere. Our classrooms. Our offices. Our labs. Its design has even inspired copycat versions categorizing desserts, superheroes, and more. People across the world, scientists and science enthusiasts alike, appreciate the table for what it is: an embodiment of the fundamental organizing principles of chemistry, an indelible reminder that the elements can be put in order and maybe even tamed.

The importance of the periodic table to all of science has made it a symbol of pride for chemists. It’s also become chemistry’s most important bridge to the public. People the world over wear novelty T-shirts with messages spelled out in the universal language of element tiles. And the discovery and naming of new elements continues to capture our imagination, despite the fact that we no longer sift through mineral ores to find them, Indiana Jones–style, but more obscurely smash atoms together to create them.

To mark 150 years of Dmitri Mendeleev’s now-iconic periodic table, the United Nations General Assembly and UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization have proclaimed 2019 the International Year of the Periodic Table of Chemical Elements.

We hope you’ll follow along as C&EN celebrates all year long. Each month we’ll re-release one of our favorite element essays from C&EN’s 2003 collectors’ issue about the periodic table. We’ll bring you up to date with what’s new about the table and its elements, including still-hot controversies about whether it’s organized optimally. And we’ll challenge you to take your periodic table pride public. This month, for example, we’re looking for your best periodic table photos: visit C&EN’s “Celebrating the Periodic Table” page on our website ( to find out how to enter the contest and get a chance to see your photo in C&EN in 2019.

Watch throughout the year for more from C&EN, including podcasts, videos, and even a chance to participate in the most epic periodic table trivia night that chemistry has ever seen.


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