Simon Werrett: "The Sporadic Table"

  • Date: –15:00
  • Location: Engelska parken 6-3025 (Rausing Room)
  • Organiser: Office for History of Science, Department of History of Science and Ideas
  • Contact person: Otto Sibum
  • Seminarium

Research presentation by Simon Werrett, University College London.


Recent work in the history of chemistry is revealing how apparently stable and self-evident natural substances emerged in the 18th and 19th centuries less through a process of discovery than through a construction of chemical and elemental identities serving various European legal, economic, and imperial agendas. If the periodic table is treated as troublesome, as another colonial classification of identities not unlike the racial classifications of the era then how might we rethink natural substances to avoid these troubles? My talk offers the “sporadic table” as one alternative. Following my work on thrifty science I am exploring a great diversity of material cultures in European and non-European settings to open up a more variegated appreciation of substances and the meanings and practises surrounding them. A more sporadic table, I shall argue, might help release us from the environmental destruction in which the periodic table has been complicit.