Four years before Mendeleev announced his Periodic Table, John Newlands organized the known elements by listing them in order by atomic weight, according to his "Law of Octaves." His method, published in Chemical News Feb.7, 1863, was ridiculed at the time.
Could the original formulation of the Periodic Table be regarded as British? Just four years before Mendeleev announced his Periodic Table, John Alexander Reina Newlands wrote in Chemical News:
‘If the elements are arranged in order of their equivalents [ie relative atomic masses in today’s terminology] with a few transpositions, it will be seen that elements belonging to the same group appear in the same horizontal line. Also the numbers of similar elements differ by seven or multiples of seven. Members stand to each other in the same relation as the extremities of one or more octaves of music. Thus in the nitrogen group phosphorus is the seventh element after nitrogen and arsenic is the fourteenth elements after phosphorus as is antimony after arsenic. This peculiar relationship I propose to call The Law of Octaves’.
Newlands thought that patterns were connected with the relative weights of atoms (we would now call them relative atomic masses – they were then called atomic weights) of different elements.
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Excerpted with permisison, www.rsc.org.