In 1869 a Russian chemist had a vision that would change the course of chemistry forever.
For the very first time, he placed every element into its natural order, cracking a universal code of matter.
Dmitri Mendeleev invented the periodic table.
Decades earlier, in the early 19th century, scientists had started to discover more and more of the different elements that make up our world.
And aluminium were identified for the first time.
And as the number of known elements grew, chemists started looking for patterns between them.
1817 – Fewer than 50 known elements
1824 – silicon discovered
1825 – aluminium discovered
But it was difficult to find order in such varied substances; solids, liquids and gases that looked, felt, smelt and behaved so differently.
Some scientists tried to group together elements with similar properties, such as their reactivity with water.
Others organised them by their relative atomic mass, known as atomic weights in those days.
But neither method seemed to work, and it seemed the world of matter might just be random.
But Mendeleev was determined to crack the puzzle. He made up a pack of cards with the name and atomic weight of each known element.
His flash of genius was to combine both properties together in a table.
Along the rows, or periods, the elements increased in relative atomic mass from left to right.
And down the columns, or groups, were families of elements that behaved in similar ways.
The problem was that this left gaps.
But Mendeleev was so confident in his arrangement, he reasoned these were simply elements that had yet to be discovered.
It was this conviction that set Mendeleev apart. And he was soon to be proved right.
Mendeleev had produced the first periodic table.