Vice President, Rational Complex & Embedded Systems
IBM Software Group
For a lot of people, the last time they thought about the Periodic Table of Elements was during the opening credits of Breaking Bad. That show did more to make people aware of the importance and power of chemicals and science than almost any other show.
While the Periodic Table is something every engineer has to study and learn, most people do not realize that it went through a lot of possible iterations and styles before it settled on the chart we know today. One example was this spiral diagram by Gustavus Hinrichs from the mid 1800's which tried to explain the patterns of properties of the various known elements at the time. His model was one of many competing models from that timeframe.
This model, created by John Newlands in 1869, was simpler to read, but it was aligned based on similar physical properties rather than by atomic weight. He was ridiculed at the time for suggesting that the elements were organized in octaves (groups of eight) like music.
As more elements were identified, the Periodic Table that we all know and love was created by the Russian scientist, Dmitri Mendeleev in 1869 Without his contributions, the opening credits of a hit TV show would not have been as elegant.