Unofficial national holidays seem to happen every day. For example, did you know that February 24 is National Tortilla Chip day? One of the newer unofficial national holidays is Periodic Table Day on February 7.
Periodic Table day was founded on February 7, 2016 to promote the challenges that scientists had to overcome to develop the periodic table that we all know and love today. It was founded by author, inventor and chemistry teacher from the Jefferson County Public School District in Kentucky, David T. Steineker. He chose February 7 because it is the anniversary of when John Newlands published the very first periodic table of the elements back in 1863.
According to Dimitrios Giarikos, a chemistry professor and assistant director of lab operations for Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography said, , “…the first time the periodic table was put together was by a Russian called Mendeleev, Dmitry Mendeleev, and at the time they didn’t know every single element so they start organizing some of the elements depending on atomic weight…”
Girarikos also said that over time that system didn’t really work, so they organized the table in the number of protons. As science got more advanced and more discoveries were made, the periodic table kept expanding. New elements were discovered and made, making more and more tables published. Now, the periodic table has 118 elements, split into different categories like metals, non-metals and metalloids. Some elements are naturally found in nature, like carbon and oxygen, while others are all man made.
If you forget to celebrate Periodic Table Day, don’t worry. According to an article on chemistryworld.com, the United Nations designated 2019 to be the international year of the periodic table of elements. 2019 is the 150 year anniversary of the table’s conception by Dmitry Mendeleev, along with the 350 year anniversary of the discovery of phosphorus and the 190 year anniversary of the law of triads by Johann Wolfgang Döbereiner. The decision was announced by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry to raise awareness of chemistry and how the periodic table is “central to linking cultural, economic and political aspects of the global society through a common language.”
Why should we care about the periodic table or about elements in general? According to professor Giarikos, the elements on the table make up everything in nature. From the smallest grain of sand to the tallest building on earth, everything is made up of these elements. Understanding the periodic table, even at a basic level, helps mankind understand more about the world he lives in.