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I’m a big fan of the History of Science and I just viewed a 2015 video by National Geographic titled “The Mystery of Matter: Search For the Elements” .
It is 3 episodes, each about 55-60 minutes. The DVD also contains Bonus Videos about 5 minutes long that expand on the 7 scientists of focus.
The videos could be shown in segments for topics that are appropriate. Here is an Internet link to various sections, including full episodes:
Some segments are just previews, so be sure what you are choosing!
Here is a brief summary of the 3 episodes. Each highlights 2-3 scientists, but many others are mentioned as various discoveries are made. Students could gather information and prepare a timeline as a class. Maybe students are assigned the various names so that each is responsible for 1 or 2; then, they could share the information – in groups or on the chalkboard.
“Out of Thin Air” – focuses on early discoveries of Gases
The highlighted scientists are Joseph Priestley, Antoine Lavosier and Humphrey Davy. It focuses on the 18th century discoveries about substances, especially gases.
An interesting fact from the video is that Joseph Priestley invented carbonated water.
I do notice that much of the work being done is without eye protection as they are depictions of earlier scientific work. It might be useful to mention why the laboratory safety elements are not being used.
Another safety concern is when Humphry Davy inhaled the various gases he produced, not knowing what they would do to him. I cringe a little when I watch that depiction.
“The Mystery of Matter” – focuses on development of The Periodic Table and early work on Radioactivity.
The highlighted scientists are Dmitri Mendeleev (mid 19th century) and Marie Curie (early 20th century).
The first 25 minutes about Mendeleev could be useful to introduce or reinforce work on The Periodic Table.
Starting around 28 minutes, Marie Curie is highlighted in her discovery of Radium.
I cringe again at the exposure to radioactivity in her work, and they don’t mention her later death from leukemia from her long-term exposure. Fortunately, in the Bonus Video titled “The Radium Craze” (5:32 minutes) they discuss that issue and the illnesses that developed in Curie and “the Radium Girls” .
“Into the Atom” – focuses on the research determining Atomic Structure and early work Nuclear Fission.
The highlighted scientists are Harry Moseley (early 20th century) and Glenn Seaborg (during WWII in the 1940s).
There is a brief focus on Ernest Rutherford’s laboratory and work, and a brief animation of his gold foil experiment.
Harry Moseley’s work ends up reordering the Periodic Table by number, not weight per Mendeleev.
This section about Moseley was truly enlightening to me because it describes his work and how important it was to the current Periodic Table. I admit that I only mentioned him briefly in my classes. I was not familiar with his experimental work and did not discuss it.
During the later section about Glenn Seaborg, more is mentioned about developments on Atomic Structure and the creation of elements past Uranium.
It’s very interesting to see how World War II influenced this development of a nuclear weapon. Perhaps there could be a discussion or class research about the pros and cons of the development of this weapon.
A Bonus Video titled “A Chemist Goes to War” (a little over 5 minutes) is about Glenn Seaborg’s work on The Manhattan Project and it’s importance to World War II.
One student activity could be to write down 5 facts from the video for assignment credit. Maybe Bonus points could be given for facts that are different from the rest of the class.
Fortunately, this video is available online – if you have the ability to project the Internet in your classroom, it is readily available for use.
Your school may not have this available. Check with your school library to see if it has been acquired so you can use it. If not, see how its purchase can be requested.
You may wish to purchase your own personal copy of this video. It’s $20 (plus tax and shipping) and is useful to have available at your convenience.
You may teach at different schools and not have access to this video series for use in your classroom – it might be a worthwhile investment.
This Blog contains several entries that would be helpful to your chemistry classroom. Remember, you can check out the Topic List to help you to find past Blog entries.
The lab book Chemistry on a Budget is very useful to your Chemistry classroom with labs and class article ideas.
Also, Write To Me about your successes, challenges, or questions in the Chemistry Classroom.
Have a great weekend!