Friday, February 17, 2012

How the past gets Bury'd

I love stories like this one about the man who first noticed and explained what's behind my Rime of the Ancient Elements: alternative proposal was put forth in 1921 by Charles Rugeley Bury (1890-1968), who was a lecturer at the University College of Wales at Aberystwyth. The scheme that he described succinctly in a mere seven pages is essentially the scheme to be found in modern introductory textbooks of chemistry and physics. He deduced from the chemical evidence that the electrons are arranged in successive layers containing 2, 8, 18, and 32 electrons. He gave a clear discussion of the electronic arrangements in the actinides and lanthanides, and even made some predictions (inevitably but not quite correct) for the transuranic elements.
Bury's scheme was reproduced in The Electronic Theory of Valency by Nevil Vincent Sidgwick (1873-1952); this was an important book that first appeared in 1927 and which interpreted the chemical behavior of the elements in terms of their electronic configurations. Sidgwick acknowledged the important contribution of Bury, but almost all subsequent accounts have failed to do so and Bury's name is now almost entirely forgotten.
~Keith J. Laidler, The World Of Physical Chemistry, Oxford University Press: New York, 1993
I can't even find a photo of Bury on the Internet. :(

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