Question: Can you say all the elements of the periodic table,since you are a chemist?

  1. Hello pnemonoultramicroscopicsillicovolcanoconiosis,
    There are currently 112 recognised elements in the official periodic table, and at least 6 more that are not officially included at the moment.
    If you are asking whether I can remember all of the elements in the order that they appear in in the periodic table, the answer is no, but I can remember the first 30 in order.
    If you gave me a chemical symbol and asked me to tell you the name of the chemical (or told me its name and asked for the symbol), then I would guess that I might be able to get about 80-90 of them correct. The ones that I probably wouldn’t be able to match up are ones that we don’t often deal with or hear about (like Praseodymium – have you ever heard of it before?). The ones that I can remember are either ones that I hear of a lot or encounter regularly (as part of the chemicals that I use in the lab) or ones that have really memorable names – like ones that are named after countries or well-known scientists. Personally, I find it easy to remember Berkelium even though I have never had anything to do with it because I have visited the university that it is named after (University of California, Berkeley), and I have a friend who studied there.

    There is actually a lot of information contained in the periodic table, so we don’t actually have to remember it off by heart. What is much much more important than remembering all the elements is that we can understand how to use the information that the periodic table contains, like what the position of a particular element in the table means about its reactivity (the way it is likely to react or not), or the number of bonds that it will want to form if it does react, or its similarity to other elements. It is also important that we understand how to get information such as atomic masses from the periodic table (although you do end up remembering the ones you use a lot).

    Its like that no matter which branch of science (or anything else) you work in. You do get used to names of things that you use a lot, but the most important thing is understanding how to use the information rather than just remembering it.

    I hope this answers your question, and again – love the username! 🙂

    PS. 2011 was the International Year of Chemistry, so to commemorate the occasion the Royal Australian Chemical Institute commissioned several artists to make prints for each of the elements. Each element was also sponsored by someone (a scientist, a student or a teacher, usually). You can have a look at the completed Periodic Table here:
    Its pretty cool looking, and you can click on each element to learn more about it from what the sponsors wrote about the element, and what the artists wrote about their pictures.



  1. Good on you for remembering that many! I never set out to learn them but by the time I had finished researching I knew all the amino acids by full, 3 letter and one letter names plus all the structures. Never was particularly useful but it was a nice party trick 🙂


  2. HI pnemonoultramicroscopicsillicovolcanoconiosis
    I wonder if you ask this question because you think that scientists need to remember these sorts of things.
    As you work with the different areas of science, you will remember a lot of this sort of stuff, it just sticks with you. So if you are a chemist or micrbiologist, you will get used to periodic table names. If you work with animals you get used to using scientific names. But do not worry about it.

    You do not have to do a test to show you can remember any of it. When working as a scientist you just look it up if you cannot remember it.


  3. My wife brought a great book home for the family the other day, called “The Elements: A visual exploration of every known atom in the Universe”, by Theodore Gray. The introduction explains all about the periodic table and then every element is described in a couple of pages, with cool photographs. If you ever come across it, have a look. Very cool book. I’m reading an element a night.


  4. I can sing a song that includes 96 of the (its a bit old =D), its called The Element Song by Tom Lehrer


    • Hi pnemonoultramicroscopicsillicovolcanoconiosis,
      I’ve heard of it too, but definitely can’t remember the whole song! Good on you if you can remember the whole thing! If anyone is interested in listening to it, you can see it at, although there are several other videos on YouTube (including one of Daniel Radcliffe from the Harry Potter movies singing it on a talk show!).