Timeline of the Elements
Click to enlarge

This graphic looks at the discovery dates of the elements, as well as the countries in which they were discovered, and plots them all on a timeline to give some idea of the order of discovery. To see a larger view of the image, click the image above to view it full sized.

This was a much bigger undertaking than expected – as it turns out, quite a few elements have discovery dates that are a little on the hazy side, and there’s also confusion in cases where the element, whilst isolated, was not recognised as a new element. As well as that, you’ve got those elements which were discovered more or less simultaneously in more than one country, just to complicate the issue of where they were discovered a little further.

I actually started setting this out in a different way, before realising that this method would be a lot quicker. However, I still have plans to finish that version as well – this one just works better and more immediately at a glance. The elements are colour coded according to their group in the periodic table, which might provide some interesting discussion points if you’re considering using this for teaching purposes: for example, the Noble Gases were all discovered in quick succession, whilst the more reactive members of the Alkali Metals were discovered several decades after those that are less reactive.

I’ve cross referenced the dates of discovery to try and ensure they’re all accurate, but if you do spot any that seem wrong don’t hesitate to point it out in the comments!

The chart is designed to be printable over two A3 pages, and can be downloaded here.

EDIT: I’ve made a newer version of the chart that might prove easier to print, which can be downloaded here.

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  • Nathan Tracey
    Posted November 24, 2016 at 8:07 pm 0Likes

    As far as I can tell, these are the correct discovery years:
    Zn 1520
    Pt 1748
    Ti 1791
    Cr 1797
    Th 1829 (1815 was a false alarm, but Berzelius decided to reuse the name when he really did discover a new element)
    V 1830*
    Er 1843 (discovered at the same time as Tb)
    Pu 1940
    Pm 1947
    Fm 1953
    No 1963**

    These seem to be the correct discovery locations:
    He Sweden and UK
    V Mexico*
    Te Romania
    Gd Switzerland
    Yb Switzerland
    Pt Spain
    No Russia**
    Db Russia and US
    Sg US
    Bh Germany
    Cn Germany

    I personally think that rhenium was discovered in 1925 and protactinium in 1913, but it *is* open to interpretation. Also, why British for rhenium? 1908 was Japanese; 1925 was German.

    I personally would also give these discovery years:
    O 1774
    Br 1826
    Rf 1964
    Db 1968

    That said, very interesting article! I really like it.

    * Read the CIAAW and RSC pages on vanadium. They give the whole story.
    ** Again, the RSC page on nobelium explains.

    • Compound Interest
      Posted November 24, 2016 at 8:12 pm 0Likes

      Thanks for the feedback! I’ll have to check my references for this graphic and get back to you on these – they’re on my old laptop somewhere so it may take a few days.

      • Nathan Tracey
        Posted November 24, 2016 at 8:30 pm 0Likes

        Sounds good to me! 1774 for barium and 1792 for strontium are also possibilities; that’s what the CIAAW says.

        • Nathan Tracey
          Posted November 24, 2016 at 8:49 pm 0Likes

          One more thing: Lu should be 1907.

          • Compound Interest
            Posted November 24, 2016 at 9:09 pm 0Likes

            Could I just ask for your references for these as well? It will make it much easier to cross-reference with my original references and work out which need to be changed, and which are simply the result of disputes.

          • Nathan Tracey
            Posted November 24, 2016 at 9:48 pm 0Likes

            Check the CIAAW pages on these elements. Each page gives the element’s history in addition to its official isotopic composition.

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