World-renowned expert on periodic table lecturing at UNI

The periodic table

The University of Northern is welcoming a world-renowned expert on the periodic table in recognition of the 150th anniversary of the iconic scientific chart.

Eric Scerri, a full-time lecturer in chemistry and history and philosophy of science at UCLA, will discuss his research on the periodic table at the annual Leland Wilson Lecture Series at 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 19 in Lantz Auditorium, McCollum Science Hall.

“His lecture will give people the opportunity to learn more about the development of the periodic table and the discovery of the elements, which affect everything in our lives,” said Laura Hoistad Strauss, head of the department of chemistry and biochemistry.

Scerri is a chemist, author and leading historian and philosopher of science, specializing in the periodic table of the chemical elements. He is the author of “The Periodic Table, Its Story and Its Significance” and numerous other books on this and related topics. His research ranges across many areas including chemical education, and historical and philosophical questions such as the relationship between chemistry and quantum physics.

His lecture will begin with a brief survey of how the ancient Greek philosophers thought about the elements, moving on to the chemical revolution of Antoine Lavoisier, at which time a new understanding of the concept of ‘element’ was reached. John Dalton’s atomic theory and the assignment of atomic weights was the first step in attempts to compare the elements. 

UNESCO proclaimed 2019 as the International Year of the Periodic Table. 

In addition to Scerri,’s time as the Wilson Lecturer, he will stay on a day to give a philosophy talk 4 p.m. Friday, Sept. 20 in 115 Seerley Hall on the UNI campus. Titled “An Evolutionary View of the Growth of Science,” Scerri will focus on how the “little people” in science contribute just as much as the “heros” by sharing the stories of seven unknown scientists in the early 20th century and their quest to discover the structure of the atom. Their journey untangles years of trial and error experiments that question the notion of scientific development as being specifically right or wrong, enlivening the long-standing debate of the nature of science.