Periodic table found in St Andrews officially world’s oldest

A periodic table chart discovered at the University of St Andrews has been recognised as the oldest in the world by the Guinness World Records.

Friday, 22nd March 2019, 3:30 pm
Updated Friday, 22nd March 2019, 3:33 pm
The periodic table is being held in a climate-controlled store.

The chart of elements, dating from 1885, was discovered in the School of Chemistry by Dr Alan Aitken during a clear out.

Following the discovery in 2014, the periodic table chart was subsequently sent for authentication and to be preserved. Marking the International Year of the Periodic Table, the fully restored chart was unveiled at a special event at the European Parliament to celebrate 150 years of the Periodic Table in January 2019, hosted by former St Andrews Rector, Catherine Stihler MEP.

Working with the university’s Special Collections team, the university sought advice from a series of international experts to accurately date the chart.

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Following further investigations, no earlier lecture chart of the table appears to exist.

Professor Eric Scerri, an expert on the history of the periodic table from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), dated the table to between 1879 and 1886 based on the represented elements. For example, both gallium and scandium, discovered in 1875 and 1879 respectively, are present, while germanium, discovered in 1886, is not.

The periodic table has been rehoused in conservation grade material and is held in Special Collections’ climate-controlled stores.

The university is planning a number of events throughout 2019 to mark International Year of the Periodic Table.