In celebration of National Periodic Table Day February 7, 2020, and of the upcoming Women’s History Month in March, here’s a look at some of the women who made key breakthroughs in the creation of the Periodic Table of Chemical Elements.
First, some general background. 2019 was the “International Year of the Periodic Table”, celebrating the 150 years since the 1869 discovery of the Periodic System by Dmitri Mendeleev, the father of the periodic table. As anyone who has taken a science class can attest, the Periodic Table of Chemical Elements has been one of the most significant breakthroughs in science, setting a chart of all the chemical building blocks of matter.
Mendeleev left blank spaces for elements yet to be discovered, and discovered they were. Today, 118 elements have been observed and charted by humans, found in nature and also made artificially through intensive research and science lab work. Some of the people who made it happen were:
Discoverer of protactinium. The heaviest known element was named after Lise for her research in the 1930s and 40s, and she’s received an Enrico Fermi Award for her work, a top honor from the U.S. Department of Energy. The element meitnerium was named after Lise. Read more about her.
Likely the major name on this list you’ve already heard of. Marie discovered the elements Polonium and Radium in the late 1890s when she was working on radioactivity. The element Curium (96) was named in her honor. Read more about her.
First scientist to propose the concept of nuclear fusion in her paper “On Element 93”. Helped discover two elements, one of which was formally accepted at the time. She was nominated for a Nobel Prize three times. Read more about her.
Clarice Phelps is a nuclear chemist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory who was the first African-American woman to contribute to the discovery of an element in the Periodic Table (117) tennessine. Read more about her.
And the list goes on. Many women, in and out of the limelight, share the credit behind the 118 elements and study of their properties in today’s Periodic Table. Bring these stories to the spotlight and share this their work with others.
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