Discovering the Elements

The explosive story of chemistry is the story of the building blocks that make up our entire world – the elements. From fiery phosphorous to the pure, untarnished lustre of gold and the dazzle of violent, violet potassium, everything is made of elements – the earth we walk on, the air we breathe, even us. For centuries this world was largely unknown and completely misunderstood.

In this three-part series (BBC 2015), which here follow after each other, professor of theoretical physics Jim Al-Khalili traces the extraordinary story of how the elements were discovered and mapped. He follows in the footsteps of the pioneers who cracked their secrets and created a new science, propelling us into the modern age.

Just 92 elements made up the world, but the belief that there were only four – earth, fire, air, and water – persisted until the 19th century. Professor Al-Khalili retraces the footsteps of the alchemists who began to question the notion of the elements in their search for the secret of everlasting life.

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