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How did Dmitrii Mendeleev make his predictions?

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The discovery of the periodic system is often associated with the Russian chemist Dmitrii Ivanovich Mendeleev. While Mendeleev was not the only chemist developing periodic classifications of the chemical elements, Mendeleev stood out from other chemists by making highly accurate predictions of unknown elements. The story of Mendeleev’s accurate predictions is well rehearsed, but Mendeleev’s methods in making predictions are less familiar. In this talk, I will explain how Mendeleev predicted properties of little-known element indium and completely unknown element ekaboron (scandium) with the use of his periodic system. I will then contrast these predictions with Mendeleev’s less-successful predictions of coronium and ether – two chemical elements that we are yet to be discovered.

Speaker bio: I am a final year PhD student at the Department of History and Philosophy of Science here at Cambridge. In my research, I apply the framework of values to analyse a well-known priority dispute concerning the discovery of the periodic system. By doing so, my project maps the role of values in the practice of chemistry. Before starting my studies at Cambridge, I did my Bachelors degree in the University of Glasgow. Lunchtime regulars at Darwin might recognise me as the Finn with a slight Scottish twang.

This talk is part of the Darwin College Humanities and Social Sciences Group series.

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