Department of History
University of Massachusetts Amherst
2012 to 2013
Creating a Symbol of Science: The Standard Periodic Table of the Elements
Abstract: The standard periodic table of the elements is an icon of chemistry and a symbol of science as a whole. It has acted as a tool and guide for research and an organizational principle for teaching. Explaining how and why it was created is thus important. This project, which constitutes my PhD dissertation, is a study of the scientific process, the ways scientists achieve consensus, and the roles played by national and international science associations. I explore the importance of visual representation, classification, and organization and the role of pedagogy in science. Finally, I attempt to reinsert some philosophy of science into the history of science, as well as some content (i.e., science) into context (i.e., the social, cultural, and political worlds in which scientists exist).