A Postage Stamp About the Periodic Table

Chemical Education Today
A Postage Stamp about the Periodic
The relationship between philately and chemistry is not
new, as can be seen, for example, in articles in this Journal (1–4)
and in Philatelia Chimica et Physica, a quarterly publication
devoted to the study of postage stamps related to chemistry
and physics (5).
On February 2, 2007, the postage stamp shown in Figure 1
was launched by Correos (General Post Office in Spain) (6), in
honor of Mendeleev (in the 100 anniversary of his death) and on
the occasion of the “Spanish Year of Science”. This stamp refers
to the modern periodic table of the chemistry elements, through
the drawing by the Spanish chemist Javier García Martínez,
who was inspired in the paintings of Piet Mondrian, the Dutch
neo-plasticist painter (1872–1944). This detail could serve as an
opportunity to link chemistry and art in the classroom.
In addition to making the international community aware
of this stamp, I propose it as a simple teaching tool. Students can
be asked questions related to:
(i) the significance of color spaces (in accordance with the
ground-state electron configurations, the blue region
consists of representative elements filling s orbitals (except
He), the red rectangle represents d-transition elements,
the yellow space contains representative elements filling
p orbitals (except that He is included), and the green
rectangle represents f-transition elements);
(ii) sizes (by considering that each little white square represents an element, the dimensions correspond to seven
periods in high and two columns of elements in the blue
zone, ten in the red zone, six in the yellow zone, and
fourteen in the green zone); and
(iii) the importance in the history of the development of the
periodic table of the “little white squares” (as it is well
known, Mendeleev predicted the properties of several
elements yet to be discovered; the little white squares
in the figure represent several of these elements, that is,
scandium, technetium, gallium, and germanium).
Figure 1. The Spanish postage stamp about the periodic table of
I am thankful for the support provided by the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid under the educational project
Literature Cited
Palmer, W. P. J. Chem. Educ. 1991, 68, 884.
Cawell, L. R. J. Chem. Educ. 1990, 67, 842.
Schreck, J. O. J. Chem. Educ. 1989, 66, 624.
Garrigos, Ll.; Ferrando, F.; Miralles, R. J. Chem. Educ. 1987, 64,
5. Philatelia Chimica et Physica Journal (Chemistry and Physics on
Stamps). http://www.cpossu.org (accessed Oct 2007).
6. Correos (General Post Office in Spain). http://www.correos.es/
(accessed Oct 2007).
Gabriel Pinto
Grupo de Innovación Educativa de Didáctica de la Química
Universidad Politécnica de Madrid
Madrid, Spain 28006
[email protected]
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www.JCE.DivCHED.org • Vol. 84 No. 12 December 2007 • Journal of Chemical Education 1919