O Mg! It's the periodic table's B day!

Nothing would exist if it weren't for elements and the —relatively — tidy periodic table is celebrating a major milestone, turning 150 this year.

Dmitri Mendeleev developed this element-sorting system starting in 1869

UNESCO has proclaimed 2019 as the International Year of the Periodic Table of Chemical Elements. (Shutterstock)

Why shouldn't you trust an atom? Because they make up everything (cue groan).

Nothing would exist if it weren't for elements and the — relatively — tidy periodic table is celebrating a major milestone, turning 150 this year.

The table's sesquicentennial is such a big deal, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has proclaimed 2019 the International Year of The Periodic Table of Chemical Elements.

Carleton University associate chemistry professor Jeff Manthrope was so fascinated by the periodic table, he had one hanging from the wall in his childhood bedroom alongside posters of musicians.

"I was just absolutely fascinated by the diversity of elements themselves, the fact there were so many building blocks out there," he told CBC Radio's All In A Day.

While the periodic table may seem a staple of science classrooms everywhere, it wasn't so easy to put together.

There were several scientists throughout history who formulated hypotheses about elements, but it was Dmitri Mendeleev, a Russian chemist and inventor, who is credited as the father of the periodic table.

"Like so many great discoveries, it was almost an accident," said Manthrope.

Jeff Manthrope will be leading a science café at the Sunnyside branch of the Ottawa Public Library in celebration of the periodic table's 150th birthday. (Kimberley Molina/CBC)

Mendeleev was writing a textbook in 1869 and began to notice patterns, then started assembling known elements by atomic mass.

He predicted there were elements that had yet to be discovered and would fit neatly into a specific space, said Manthrope, elements such as Germanium that weren't discovered until 1886.

He even predicted their properties.

Element 101, Mendelevium, is named after him.

Like so many great discoveries, it was almost an accident.- Jeff Manthrope, Carleton University

Manthrope is leading a Science Café at the Ottawa Public Library's Sunnyside branch on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m.

The university will also be holding a chemistry magic show on Saturday.

Maybe you like the malleability and shininess of Au, or the old fashioned (and dangerous) Pb pipes, or a living C?

What's your favourite element and why? The comment section is open.

Don't worry about making bad chemistry jokes, because all the good ones Argon.

With files from All In A Day


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?