Chapter

A Theory of the Chemical Elements

Helge Kragh

in Niels Bohr and the Quantum Atom

Published in print May 2012 | ISBN: 9780199654987
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191741692 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199654987.003.0007
A Theory of the Chemical Elements

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In 1921 Bohr’s new institute for theoretical physics in Copenhagen was established. The same year he developed his ideas of atomic constitution into a theory of the periodic system, covering the electron configurations of all atoms. This new theory relied on the correspondence principle and the new notion of penetrating orbits, but even more so on empirical facts. One result of the eclectic theory was the prediction that the unknown element of atomic number 72 should be a homologue of zirconium, as confirmed by the discovery of hafnium in 1922. However, although Bohr’s theory attracted much interest and was seen as a great progress, it was short-lived. Following ideas by E. Stoner, in 1925 W. Pauli presented a superior explanation of the periodic system that built on a new quantum rule, soon known as the exclusion principle.

Keywords: periodic system; penetrating orbits; hafnium; Copenhagen; correspondence principle; Wolfgang Pauli; exclusion principle

Chapter.  20047 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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