Alexandre-Emile Béguyer de Chancourtois


Alexandre-Emile Béguyer de Chancourtois was born January 20, 1820 and died in 1886. He was a French geologist and mineralogist who was the first to arrange the chemical elements in order of atomic weights.
De Chancourtois was born in Paris. At age eighteen, he entered the renowned École Polytechnique, one of the best known French grandes Écoles of engineering and management. After completing his studies at École Polytechnique, de Chancourtois went on a geological expedition into Hungary, Armenia and Turkey. In 1848, de Chancourtois went back to Paris and joined the teaching faculty as professor of mine surveying at the école Nationale Supérieure des Mines de Paris.
De Chancourtois led several overseas expeditions during the course of his life and served as the Inspector of Mines in Paris from 1875 until his death. As a mine inspector, he introduced safety laws to prevent methane gas explosions, which were frequent occurrences at the time.

All Periodic Tables list the elements in order of a particular property. A property which can be expressed by a number (such as relative atomic mass) is better than a property which cannot (such as color). In 1860 a conference was held in Karlsruhe (Germany) which produced a much more accurate list of atomic weights than previously available. (Not only were some earlier values slightly inaccurate, faulty reasoning had led to some being a half or a third of the correct value).

tellurique in museum case

Alexandre-Emile Béguyer de Chancourtois was the first person known to create an arrangement with the elements in order of increasing atomic weight.

In 1862, a year before John Alexander Reina Newlands published his classification of the elements, the Law of Octaves, and about 7 years prior to Mendeleev's Periodic System development, de Chancourtois created a fully-functioning and unique system of organizing the chemical elements. He devised a spiral graph that was arranged on a cylinder which he called Vis Tellurique, seen in the wooden case, above.

De Chancourtois ordered the elements by increasing atomic weight and with similar elements lined up vertically, and with all the elements in an unbroken order. He plotted the equivalent weights on the surface of a cylinder with a circumference of 16 units, the approximate atomic weight of oxygen.

The resulting 3D spiral chart had elements with like properties above or below one another on the cylinder as well. He suggested that "The properties of (The elements) are the properties of numbers", and was the first scientist to recognize that similar elements occurred at regular atomic weight intervals - the basic principle of all succeeding periodic tables.

Despite de Chancourtois' work, his publication attracted little attention from chemists around the world. He presented the paper to the French Academy of Sciences which published it in Comptes Rendus, the academy's journal. De Chancourtois's original diagram was left out of the publication, making the paper hard to comprehend.

tellurique chart

However, the diagram did appear in a less widely-read geological pamphlet. The paper also dealt mainly with geological concepts, and did not suit the interests of many chemistry experts. It was not until 1869 that Dmitri Mendeleev's periodic table attracted attention and gained scientific acceptance.

source:, Wikipedia

Whats that, she said, the periodic table the way it's supposed to be but isnt?


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