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November 26th is John Alexander Newlands' birthday. Newlands was a British chemist who noticed that if he arranged the known elements in order of increasing atomic weight, the chemical properties of the eighth element were similar to the first. The pattern repeated every eight elements much like the octaves on a piano, so he called his periodic law the "Law of Octaves".

When he presented his idea in 1863, he was met with criticism. Other chemists thought his ideas were arbitrary, even useless. Fellow English chemist, Carey Foster even asked Newlands if he had considered arranging the elements by the first letter of their name. The general reception of his theory led him to abandon any work on categorizing the elements into a useful manner.

By the end of the decade, Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev and German chemist Julius Meyer independently compiled periodic laws based on atomic weights. Mendeleev created his periodic table to account for the common chemical properties much like Newlands. The modern periodic table is arranged by the atomic number discovered by Henry Moseley in 1914. Find out what else occurred on this day in science history.


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