Country of Discovery Periodic Table of the Elements

The Periodic Table of the Elements and their Country of Discovery. Clicking to embiggen and make legible will open a new page at Credit: Jaime B Gallagher @jaimebgall/

The Periodic Table of the Elements and their Country of Discovery. Clicking to embiggen and make legible will open a new page at Credit: Jaime B Gallagher @jaimebgall/

Admit it. You have a Periodic Table of the Elements shower curtain. Don’t you?

Dmitri Mendeleev (and Julius Lothar Meyer, 1870) might have never predicted that his 1869 scientific tool would give rise not only to consumer products for the chemistry enthusiast but also a graphic visual adopted for all manner of non-scientific purposes:

The Periodic Table of Beer Styles

The Periodic Table of Drupal Modules

The Periodic Table of Typefaces

The Periodic Table of Islam

…and, for balance, The Periodic Table of Atheists and Antitheists

(yes, please add your own favorites in the comments below)

Well, my morning coffee Twitter feed brought me a new version that’s 1) about actual chemistry and 2) useful for educational purposes.

A story in this week’s Smart News displays the periodic table of the country of element discovery as constructed by Glaswegian chemistry PhD student, science communicator and dancer, Jaime B Gallagher (Twitter @JamieBGall). I’m reminded that the stories behind each element not only tell us history, but also how early chemists differentiated between the elements.

While Gallagher tries to give credit to multiple countries for some of the discoveries, debate will undoubtedly ensue. This is is good thing. It’ll get folks talking about chemistry.

Lithium, for example, was discovered by Swedish chemist Johan Arfwedson who liberated it from petalite ore, discovered by Brazilian Jose Bonifacio de Andrade de Silva while visiting the Swedish countryside. Swede Jans Jacob Berzelius named it lithos (for stone – think lithotrypsy). But it wasn’t isolated until the independent work of Sir Humphrey Davy in England and William Brande in Sweden. So while Gallagher is probably right to fully credit Sweden for lithium, one could make an argument that the UK flag should partially be at position 3.

The story might also get us talking about modern uses of the elements. For example, a large deposit of lithium has just been discovered in Wyoming, a find that’s likely to put the States in a better spot as international demand for lithium grows rapidly.

And while chest-thumping U.S. citizens might want to boast international superiority, we’re only tied for third (or fourth…with France!) for the discovery of 17 elements. The UK is tops with 23 followed by Sweden and Germany with 19 each.

Have fun looking at this table and consider using it in your science and public education efforts. There’s something here for everyone.

And before my graphic designer relatives chime in, yes, Jaime should have enlisted the help of a professional illustrator for color and typeface choices. But, hey, he’s already done the content legwork.



Author: David Kroll

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  1. Marie Curie was French?

    • She was a women!
      Let see the periodic table in this way.
      Her maiden name was Sklodowska!

    • Exactly. After all Poland is a small country 🙂

  2. OK, discoveries were made in France but…

  3. Hi
    I’m glad you enjoyed my little graphic.
    You are entirely right that there are some elements that could be argued. The decisions for many were difficult to make. Delving back to the 1700s credit becomes difficult to assign.

    I’d be happy if folk got talking about it and chimed in with their own ideas. If fact I was only inspired to make this when I found errors in other peoples work!

    As for the design, ah well, it is done now. I hadn’t quite expected it to get so much attention as it has.

    Thanks for sharing!

  4. Thanks so much for coming by to comment, Jaime! I was only partly joking about your design since I have family in the graphic design and illustration business. Have you had any inquiries from artists who might want to redesign the table for you?

    As for me, your table reminded me that the Swedes were very prominent in chemistry. We in the U.S. often only remember Nobel as a famous Swedish chemist, although he’s nowhere on the periodic table! On the other hand, I was taught about German chemists. In fact, our chemistry program at the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science still required taking German when I was in university.

    I do indeed think that your project got people talking. I’ll be sure to share this widely around our upcoming Chemistry Day at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. Thanks again!

  5. Maria Skłodowska-Curie was polish born (citizen both) scientist living in France.
    It is general information in every school in Europe. Are you from China Mr David?

    • Hi,
      Thanks for your comment. I’m aware of Marie Curie’s birthplace and achievements. It is the process of reporting scientific discovery to attribute the host institute and funder rather than the nationality of those involved.

      The above table reflects that the study was funded and carried out in France.

  6. This is ridiculous to give French origin to Radium and no origin to Polonium. Both elements were discovered by Polish scientist, double Nobel Laureate, Mrs. Maria Skłodowska Curie.

  7. Hi,
    Thanks for your comment. I’m aware of Marie Curie’s achievements. I have written and recorded many pieces about her and her life. That said I’m afraid the victory still goes to France. Let me explain…..

    When reaserch is published it is the names of the authors and their host institutions which are reported and not the nationality of any of the researchers. For example if I were working in MIT in America they would be the ones publishing my work and claiming credit and not the country I was born in.

    Later elements have been discovered by large multinational groups but what is always important in attributing discovery is host institute and funders.

    In Ra and Po the work was carried out in France and funded by France therefore they own the discovery.

    Hopefully this explains my decision.