Happy Birthday to … the Periodic Table!

The United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) is celebrating the periodic table’s 150th birthday this year, and they’re not just celebrating it over one day – the festivities are going to be lasting all year! We find out why the periodic table gets a yearlong birthday with these fun facts. 

    • Although he wasn’t the first to attempt it, the periodic table was first created by a Russian scientist called Dmitri Mendeleev in 1869.
    • Today would have been Mendeleev’s birthday. He was born on 8th February 1834 in St Petersburg
    • He realised (according to legend, whilst dozing at his desk!) that the chemical properties of the 63 known elements seemed to repeat in patterns according to their atomic mass.


    • Mendeleev left gaps in his original table for elements that had not yet been discovered, but that he knew must exist.
    • The structure of the periodic table is now known to be due to quantum mechanics – the way on which electrons fill energy levels as they orbit around the atomic nucleus.
    • The current periodic table includes 118 elements and new ones are still being discovered: in 2015, Prof. Yuri Oganessian added four new elements to the periodic table, including Oganesson, which he named after himself.
    • Students have enjoyed learning about the chemical elements through the various incarnations of The Periodic Table Song. Watch out, it’s catchy!
    • The discovery of these 118 elements is the combined work of many scientists over many years. Next week, there will be a special symposium to celebrate the input of female chemists in these discoveries: For example, Marie Curie, who discovered Polonium and Radium.


Now sit back and start the weekend with The Periodic Table Song!

Read more about this:

UNESCO International year of the Periodic Table

Follow UNESCO’s Twitter feed for regular updates: @iypt2019

Nature: Beyond the Periodic Table

Science Magazine: Special Issue: Periodic Table turns 150