How is chemical knowledge organized? The periodic system;


conceptual framework:


Bibliometric maps of chemistry:



Technical divisions of American Chemical Society (2006):




Dupré, J. (2006). Scientific classification. Theory, Culture & Society, 23(2-3), 30-32.


Hull, D. L. (1998). Taxonomy. IN: Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Version 1.0, London: Routledge.


Murray-Rust, Peter; Rzepa, Henry S. Tyrrell, Simon. M. & Zhang, Y (2004). Representation and use of Chemistry in the Global Electronic Age. Org. Biomol. Chem, 2, 3192–3203.  [Chemical semantic web].

Psarros, N. (1998). The Concept of Molecule in Chemistry, Physics and Biology. IN: Janich, Peter & Psarros, Nikolaos (Eds.). (1998). The Autonomy of Chemistry. 3rd Erlenmeyer-Colloquy for the Philosophy of Chemistry. Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann (pp. 91-102).


See also: Chemistry (Epistemological lifeboat);  The periodic system;





American Chemical Society, Technical divisions (2006):\division.html







Birger Hjørland

Last edited: 07-02-2008





to be edited:

In 1869 Dimitri Mendelejew proposed the periodic law, by which the elements arranged according to the magnitude of atomic weights show a periodic change of properties.



“Mendelejew's Table of Elements . . . can be viewed as a prototype of all taxonomies in that it satisfies the following evaluative criteria: (a) Theoretical foundation: A theory determines the classes and their order. (b) Objectivity: The elements can be observed and classified by anybody familiar with the table of elements. (c) Completeness: All elements find a unique place in the system, and the system implies a list of all possible elements. (d) Simplicity: Only a small amount of information is used to establish the system and identify an object. (e) Predictions: The values of variables not used for classification can be predicted (number of electrons and atomic weight), as well as the existence of relations and of objects hitherto unobserved. Thus, the validity of the classification system itself becomes testable.”  (Feger, 2001, 1967-1968)


“What is the Periodic Table of The Elements?

"It is a huge, efficient resource!"

The periodic table is the most important chemistry reference there is. It arranges all the known elements in an informative array. Elements are arranged left to right and top to bottom in order of increasing atomic number. Order generally coincides with increasing atomic mass.

The different rows of elements are called periods. The period number of an element signifies the highest energy level an electron in that element occupies (in the unexcited state). The number of electrons in a period increases as one traverses down the periodic table; therefore, as the energy level of the atom increases, the number of energy sub-levels per energy level increases.

Using the data in the table scientists, students, and others that are familiar with the periodic table can extract information concerning individual elements. For instance, a scientist can use carbon's atomic mass to determine how many carbon atoms there are in a 1 kilogram block of carbon. People also gain information from the periodic table by looking at how it is put together. By examining an element's position on the periodic table, one can infer the electron configuration. Elements that lie in the same column on the periodic table (called a "group") have identical valance electron configurations and consequently behave in a similar fashion chemically. For instance, all the group 18 elements are inert gases. The periodic table contains an enormous amount of important information. People familiar with how the table is put together can quickly determine a significant amount of information about an element, even if they have never heard of it. “ Los Alamos National Laboratory's Chemistry Division (2003).


Science Citation Index,

Journal list 28/05/2004


Subject categories:

Chemistry, analytical

Chemistry, applied

Chemistry inorganic & nuclear

Chemistry, medicinal

Chemistry, multidisciplinary

Chemistry, organic

Chemistry, physical



American Chemical Society Technical Divisions:


Division of Agriculture and Food Chemistry

Carbohydrate Chemistry

Cellulose, Paper & Textile Chemistry

Chemical Health & Safety

Chemical Information Division

Chemistry and the Law

Colloid & Surface Chemistry

Computers in Chemistry

Fluorine Chemistry


History of Chemistry

Industrial and Engineering Chemistry

Petroleum Chemical

Polymer Division

Polymeric Materials Science & Engineering

Professional Relations

Small Chemical Business Division




Cahn, R. M. (2002). Philosophische und historische Aspekte des Periodensystems der chemischen Elemente [Philosophical and Historical Aspects of the Periodic Systems of Chemical Elements]. Karlsruhe, Germany: HYLE Publications. (HYLE Studies in History and Philosophy of Chemistry, No. 1).  (Visited March 9, 2004).

Feger, H. (2001). Classification: Conceptions in the social sciences. IN: International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioral Sciences. (Vol. 3, pp. 1966-1973).

Hettema, H. & Kuipers, T.A.F. (1988). The Periodic Table – Its Formalization, Status and Relation to Atomic Theory. Erkenntnis, 28, 841–860.

Lagowski, J. J. (1998). Chemical elements. IN: Encyclopædia Britannica 99. CD-Rom´. Multimedia version.


Los Alamos National Laboratory's Chemistry Division (2003). Periodic Table of the elements. A Resource for Elementary, Middle School, and High School Students.


Mendelejeff, D. (1869). Ueber die Beziehungen der Eigenschaften zu den Atomgewichten der Elemente. Zeitschrift für Chemie, 12, 405-406. (Visited January, 25 2004).


Nielsen, L. & Wagner, N. (2004). Det periodiske system. En bibliometrisk analyse. Opgave i vidensorganisation på Kandidatuddannelsen. København: Danmarks Biblioteksskole.


Scerri, E. R. & Edwards, J. (2001). Bibliography of secondary sources on the periodic system of the chemical elements. Foundations of Chemistry, 3(2), 183–196. Available: (Visited March 9, 2004).