Science Service, Up Close: The Periodic Chart

Henry David Hubbard (1870-1943), a physicist at the U.S. National Bureau of Standards, designed the first edition of the "Periodic Chart of the Atoms" in 1924. The chart is still in use today, continually updated to reflect new elements. 

In this photograph taken by Julian Scott during the 1920s, Hubbard sits at his desk and a copy of the chart is visible on the wall in front of him. At the right, leaning against the wall, appears to be an engraving of Dimitry Ivanovich Mendeleev (1834–1907), the nineteenth-century Russian chemist who developed one of the early scientific charts grouping chemical elements according to common properties.

Henry David Hubbard.

During the following decades, the periodic chart was expanded, each edition reflecting new elements or isotopes. The now-familiar table had also become a photographer’s convenient prop, a way to signal some scientific aspect to a scene or people. In a photograph from the 1960s, for example, Iris Miroy Ovshinsky (1927-2006), co-founder of Energy Conversion Devices, Inc., is shown standing in front of a periodic chart with her husband Stanford Robert Ovshinsky (1922-2012), inventor and President of Energy Conversion Devices, Inc.

Iris Miroy Ovshinsky with her husband Stanford Robert Ovshinsky.

Related Resources

Periodic Chart of the Atoms, National Museum of American History

Periodic Table, National Institute of Science and Technology 

The Evolution of the Periodic System, Scientific American

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