If you are looking for a living book for the study of chemistry be sure to check out The Mystery of the Periodic Table.
Do you ever plan too far ahead? That happened to me with science curriculum. I bought Noeo Physics 1 and Noeo Chemistry 1, but we worked through the physics material so slowly that by the time we got to the chemistry material, my daughter had outgrown level 1!
Fortunately, Noeo is a living books based curriculum. And good books are good books no matter their level. So I decided to simply beef up level 1 with some extra books that take a deeper look at the subject.
Thy Mystery of the Periodic Table
The Mystery of the Periodic Table turned out to be an excellent living book for the study of chemistry! It’s one of those books that makes you constantly think, “Why, oh why couldn’t my chemistry studies have been this interesting?”
Written by Benjamin D. Wiker, the book is a non-fiction narrative of the history of chemistry from ancient metal workers of the Neolithic period all the way to modern twentieth century scientists who artificially produce new elements.
Of course, the meat of the book covers all the scientists in the middle: Robert Boyle
- Joseph Priestly
- Henry Cavendish
- Antoine Lavoisier
- John Dalton
- Humphry Davy
- Dimitrii Mendeleev
- Ernest Rutherford
- and more!
What’s Inside The Mystery of the Periodic Table
This one volume will take you logically through the major scientific discoveries that led to the creation of our modern periodic table of elements.
- There are nice line diagrams illustrating many of the concepts
- Each chemist is featured in a small thumbnail portrait
- There is a glossary at the back of the book
- Pronunciations of the chemists’ names are included in the text.
- Another helpful part of the book is an appendix listing the elements by their date of discovery.
When science is approached in this step by step way, even complicated scientific concepts are easier to understand. It’s as if you’re walking alongside the scientists, discovering what they discover through the years.
You read about the experiments and the conclusions that the chemists make. Although their conclusions were often wrong, their questions or methods led other scientists to come to the right conclusions later on. In this way, the value of the scientific method is repeatedly emphasized.
Christian or Secular?
The Mystery of the Periodic Table is not overtly Christian, but there are a few key passages that hint at the hand of a Creator. One example is in chapter 16, “Human beings, especially scientists, but also philosophers and theologians, are always suspicious. They have a deep down feeling that things are not just put together randomly, a strange intuition that, underneath it all, there is a conspiracy going on, a great conspiracy of order.” The entire book is devoted to the unveiling of that “great conspiracy of order” which is revealed in the periodic table of elements.
Our Experience with The Mystery of the Periodic Table
The Mystery of the Periodic Table is a fascinating read that makes chemistry both engaging and extremely comprehensible.
I read this title out loud to my 10 year old daughter. I don’t think that she totally understood all of the science of the book, but she did grasp the main ideas of what elements are and how scientists throughout history uncovered their existence and then arranged them as they discovered their properties.
The book reinforced for her that scientists do not have all the answers; instead they are looking for answers through a lot of trial and error. As we read the book, we added the various chemists to our timeline, made a chemistry lapbook, and a wall chart of the periodic table (pictured).
Study Questions for The Mystery of the Periodic Table
More With The Periodic Table
- The Beginners Guide to Atoms and the Periodic Table
- Exploring Ionic Bonding with Home Science Tools
- Exploring Covalent Bonding with Home Science Tools
- Building a Solid Foundation in Chemistry
Originally published July 2009, written by Jimmie, Charlotte Mason flavored mom of one.