“There are valid reasons for declaring that the periodic system was essentially discovered in 1862 by De Chancourtois, a French geologist. De Chancourtois appears to have taken not just an important step in the story of the periodic system but, in many ways, the single most important step. It was he who first recognized that the properties of the elements are a periodic function of their atomic weights, a full seven years before Mendeleev arrived at the same conclusion.” -Scerri, The Periodic Table: Its Story and Its Significance
FIRST EDITION of De Chancourtois’s presentation of his “telluric screw,” the first periodic representation of the elements; precedes Mendeleev’s table by seven years.
“In 1862, De Chancourtois arranged the elements according to what he termed increasing ‘numbers’ along a spiral. These numbers were written along a vertical line that served to generate a vertical cylinder... The first full turn of the spiral ended with the element oxygen, and the second full turn was completed at sulfur. Periodic relationships, or chemical groupings, could be seen in De Chancourtois’s... by moving vertically downward along the surface of the cylinder. The eighth such turn, and coincidentally the halfway point down the cylinder, occurred at tellurium. This rather arbitrary feature provided De Chancourtois with the name of vis tellurique, or telluric screw, for his system. This name may also have been chosen by De Chancourtois from tellos, Greek for earth, given that as a geologist, he was primarily interested in classifying the elements of the earth.
“De Chancourtois’s system did not create much impression on chemists... The original article failed to include a diagram, mainly because of the complexity faced by the publisher in trying to reproduce it, with the result that its visual force was lost... Frustrated that the journal Comptes Rendus failed to include a diagram. De Chancourtois had his system republished in 1863. But, because it was published privately, this further article received even less notice from other scientists than did the original one. Still, it cannot be denied that De Chancourtois was the first to show that the properties of the elements are a periodic function of their atomic weights” (Scerri, The Periodic Table: Its Story and Its Significance).
IN: Comptes rendus, vol 54, pp. 757-761; 840-843; 967-971. Paris: Mallet-Bachelier, 1862. Quarto, original wrappers; custom case. The whole volume, January - June, 1862. Some occasional foxing; text largely unopened. An outstanding copy, rare in original wrappers.
Price: $1,950 .