If you ever had to memorize the periodic table of chemical elements, the name Lothar Meyer may be familiar to you.
For it was Meyer, a German chemist, professor and author, who was one of two scientists to pioneer the earliest periodic tables and discover the periodic law of chemical elements. To celebrate his contribution to science, Google dedicated its Doodle on Wednesday to Meyer on his 190th birthday.
Born Julius Lothar Meyer in Varel, Germany, in 1830, Meyer initially followed in his father’s footsteps, studying medicine. But after a few years of study, he shifted his focus to chemistry and began teaching science.
In 1864, Meyer published Die modernen Theorien der Chemis (Modern Chemical Theory), which contained an early version of the periodic table containing 28 elements classified for the first time into six families based on their atomic weight.
At the same time that Meyer was working on his table, Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev was formulating his own periodic table, which featured an arrangement he said came to him in a dream. Meyer’s initial pattern arranged the elements in horizontal form, but before he could publish a revision in vertical form in 1870, Mendeleev published a periodic table in 1869 that included all the elements known at the time and corrected some atomic weights.
A few months later, Meyer published his revision, which included a line chart showing the relationship between atomic volume and atomic weight and the periodic relationship of the elements. Meyer’s chart is depicted on the chalkboard of Wednesday’s Doodle.
Though Meyer developed his revision independently, he acknowledged Mendeleev’s priority.
In recognition of their work on periodic law, both Meyer and Mendeleev were awarded the Davy Medal by the Royal Society in 1882.