The Man who saw the Elements

Mendeleev’s periodic table

Sujatha R
4 min readApr 21


“God is a great Mathematician and He created the world with such Accuracy”. I often wonder if mathematics was a means of discovering the hidden mysteries of the Universe. There is AN ELEMENT corresponding to every integer number till 100. Is n’t this Phenomenal and our Universe’s expression of Poetry?

My friend shared this wonderful talk on Intuition and the Quest for Order in Elements.. What better than rehearing the Story from a Chemistry Professor of IISc.

He who knows the Elements Knows it all.. The Sky the Oceans, the Plants and Stars.. -A Vedic song

Greeks and Indians knew about the 5 ELEMENTS that constitute everything in and around us.. The space, air, water, fire and earth. Euclid called them THE ELEMENTS. And the Indians called them the pancha-maha-bhoota.

Infact, the BhagawadGita and the other texts take the understanding of Sensing and Cognition to the next level. Space is a carrier for Vision.. Air is a carrier for Smell, Sound and sense of Direction.. Water is the carrier for Taste.. Fire for Touch..

About the actual elements as we call them, The ancient folks used a few of them were easily extractable from their natural forms. Silver, Gold, Copper, Iron, Lead, Tin, Mercury, Sulpur were know to them.

And then the modern pursuit of order and exploration. There was no AI.. Only Human pursuit of discovering hidden orders.

John Dalton proposed that ELEMENTS are made of indivisible units called ATOMS.

Another scientist John Doberreiner observed this pattern and called it ‘Law of Triads’. Atomic Masses for these similar sets were in Arithmetic Progression. Was it just a coincidence?

Li Na K => 7 23 39
Cl Br I => 35 81 127

Newland further proposes Law of Octaves. When Elements are arranged atomic number-wise, the 8th element seemed to have similar properties as the 1st Element. Things were repeating just like the music octaves. Was it a coincidence?

H Li Be B C Ni O
F Na Mg Al Si P S

Then followed the method of madness to discover the pattern connecting the Elements. For the known Elements at that time, Lothar Mayer did an interesting plot of Atomic Volume vs Atomic Masses. The curves were repeating like a sinusoid. With higher atomic numbers, the curve got wider. Several elements were at the bottom of the graph. These corresponded to the heavy metals.

Then comes our Hero Dimitri Mandaleef. He was obsessed with Chemistry and had by then published the best seller on Organic Chemistry.

He took an intuitive approach. In 1871, He was able to see the order in his mind and even he made predictions of several elements yet to be unearthed and discovered.

And his Audacity.. He predicted an element with Aluminum like properties. He predicted its atomic density, atomic weight, valency, its oxide form through which it will manifest on Earth.. He called it ‘eka Aluminum’ as he was fond of Sanskrit.

Our crazy scientist predicted several other elements and named them all with Sanskrit prefixes. And many were discovered later. Look at his writing below with the ”?” marks.

The world did not believe him till his predictions came true. In 1875, Gallium, his first prediction came true. It was discovered by a French scientist. All Gallium’s properties matched Mendeleev’s predictions except its specific gravity, which appeared to be 4.7. Mandeleev challenges his measurements, and Bingo.. it was 5.9, close to his prediction of 6.

“The discovery of scandium in 1879 and germanium in 1885 — both exhibiting the properties Mendeleev had predicted for them — persuaded more chemists that his table, despite its remaining anomalies, was too useful to ignore.”

And this is the famous periodic table as we all know of.

That was the chemistry bit. Here comes my connection.

A few years back, I did a course on NLP and had this crazy idea of understanding the sounds and patterns of Bhagawad Gita.. My Sanskrit knowledge was minimal.. I was struggling in the woods of sandhis and sounds. Rules were too much to learn.

I just contemplated on the Periodic table. As that was the Best I knew about Order, Elements and Interactions.. Sounds too seemed like Elements. They had combination patterns and affinities.. And to my relief, I had an intuition and could get past the Sandhis.

And that evening when I discovered Mendaleef had an influence of Sanskrit, I went Speechless.



Sujatha R

I write.. I weave.. I walk.. कवयामि.. वयामि.. यामि.. Musings on Music, Linguistics & Patterns