Article ID: CBB857890487

The Periodic Table as an Icon: A Perspective from the Philosophy of Charles Sanders Peirce (2019)


The aim of this essay is to examine the iconic nature of Mendeleev's periodic table in light of the philosophy of the American pragmatist Charles Sanders Peirce. Mendeleev and Peirce lived at approximately the same time during the 19th and early 20th centuries. They both trained as chemists and, in 1869, the year of Mendeleev's first arrangement of the chemical elements, Peirce published his own arrangement, also based on atomic weights. Peirce developed a theory of iconicity as part of his wider semiotics, an important characteristic of an icon being its epistemic fruitfulness. The periodic table proved to be epistemically fruitful in predicting new relations—new knowledge—such as revised atomic weights and novel elements. By viewing the periodic table through the lens of Peirce's iconicity, I will show how Mendeleev was able both to reveal and to make perspicuous the relations between the chemical elements.

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Authors & Contributors
Scerri, Eric R.
Pulkkinen, Karoliina
Bensaude-Vincent, Bernadette
Orna, Mary Virginia
Griffith, W. P.
Akeroyd, Michael
Substantia: An International Journal of the History of Chemistry
Foundations of Chemistry
Centaurus: International Magazine of the History of Mathematics, Science, and Technology
Oxford University Press
Periodic system of the elements; periodic table
Chemical elements
Atomic weights
Terminology and nomenclature
Theory of the elements
Mendeleev, Dmitri Ivanovich
Lavoisier, Antoine Laurent
Thomson, Joseph John
Vincent, Joseph Herbert
Chicherin, Boris Nikolaevich
Mills, Edmund James
Time Periods
19th century
20th century
20th century, early
18th century
17th century
21st century
International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry

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