Scerri, Eric R.


Scerri Eric


Dr. Eric Scerri was educated at the Universities of London, Cambridge and Southampton. He then taught chemistry for about ten years at several private colleges in London and then at the American University of London, while also writing his PhD in the History & Philosophy of Chemistry at King’s College, London. After postdoctoral fellowships at the London School of Economics and Caltech he taught chemistry at Bradley University and Purdue University, for three years, before beginning at UCLA in the fall of 2000, where he has taught over 20,000 chemistry undergraduates, as well as teaching courses in history & philosophy of science.

His first book on the periodic table was awarded the Newby McCoy prize by the UCLA Chemistry Department and was a Choice Magazine best academic book of the year. His second book on this subject was also a Choice Magazine academic book of the year. His most recent book, “A Tale of Seven Elements” was named among the top 12 science books of the year 2013 by New Scientist magazine. In addition Scerri has published two books of his own collected research papers and has edited three further books on the philosophy of chemistry and the elements. His books have been translated into twelve languages, so far, and he is currently working on a new book about the rare earth elements.

Scerri has appeared on radio and television and frequently lectures in countries all round the world. He has published over 100 articles in professional journals as well as more popular magazines including Scientific American, American Scientist, New Scientist, Chemistry World etc.

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Research Interests

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History and Philosophy of Chemistry including the question of the reduction of chemistry to quantum mechanics. Historical evolution of the periodic system and successive theoretical explanations for the periodic system. The philosophical nature of ‘elements’ including the elements as basic substances as simple substances (Lavoisier) and elements as basic substances (Mendeleev and later Paneth). The presentation of electronic structure and quantum mechanics in contemporary chemical education. >>

Honors & Awards

  • UCLA McCoy-Newby Award
  • Foundations of Chemistry Editor
  • California Institute of Technology Postdoctoral Fellow
  • London School of Economics (Department of Philosophy of Science) Postdoctoral Fellow

Representative Publications

For the latest publications view their Google Scholar page:


  • Co-editor with Elena Ghibaudi, of What is An Element? Oxford University Press, New York, 2020.
  • Author of, The Periodic Table, Its Story and Its Significance, 2nd edition, Oxford University, 2020.
  • Author of, A Very Short Introduction to the Periodic Table, 2nd edition, Oxford University Press, New York, 2019.
  • Co-editor with Guillermo Restrepo of Mendeleev to Oganesson. Multidisciplinary Perspectives on the Periodic Table, Oxford University Press, 2018.
  • Author of, A Tale of Seven Scientists and A New Philosophy of Science, Oxford University Press, 2016.
  • Co-editor with Grant Fisher of, Essays in The Philosophy of Chemistry, Oxford University Press, New York, 2016.
  • Author of A Tale of Seven Elements, Oxford University Press, 2013.
  • Co-editor with L. McIntyre, The Growth of a New Discipline, Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science, vol. 306, Springer, Heidelberg, 2014.
  • Consulting Editor, “30-second elements”, Ivy Press, UK, 2013.
  • Author of A Very Short Introduction to the Periodic Table, Oxford University, 2011.
  • Author of Collected Papers on the Periodic Table by Eric Scerri, Imperial College Press, London, 2009.
  • Author of Collected Papers on Philosophy of Chemistry, Imperial College Press, London, 2008.
  • Author of The Periodic Table, Its Story and Its Significance, Oxford University Press, New York, 2007.Winner of UCLA, Herbert Newby McCoy faculty award.
    Chosen as “outstanding academic title for 2007” by Choice Library magazine.
    Japanese Translation published by Asakura Publishing Company, October, 2009.
    French translation published by EDP Sciences, 2011.
    Chinese translation published by Dalian University of Technology Press, 2013,
    Polish translation.
  • Co-editor of, The Philosophy of Chemistry: The Synthesis of a New Discipline, Baird, D., Scerri, E.R., McIntyre, L., volume 242 of Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science, Springer, Heidelberg, 2005.


  • A commentary on Robin Hendry’s views on molecular structure, emergence and chemical bonding, in D. Vecchi, New Mechanism: Emergence and Scientific Explanation. Ontological and Epistemological challenges in the Natural Sciences, Springer, 2023.
  • How and why the Periodic Table should be elevated to a higher status in chemistry courses, and a very brief history of the periodic table, in New Directions in Chemical Education, V. Domenici ed., Pisa University Press, 9-20, 2023.
  • Preface to Introduction to Philosophy of Chemistry,  M. Labarca, S. Fortin (eds.), 2023.
  • Should atoms be put first in teaching general chemistry and if so how? in Orian ed., Perspectives in Chemical Education, Padua University Press, 2023.
  • A new response to Wray and an attempt to widen the conversation, Substantia.
  • Book review of “Elements, A Visual History”, by Philip Ball, Ambix, 2022.
  • In praise of chemical triads, Foundations of Chemistry, 2022, 24, 285–300. Link
  • On Weisberg’s writings about chemical bonding, Foundations of Chemistry, Accepted (in press).
  • Hasok Chang on the Nature of Acids, Foundations of Chemistry (in press). Link
  • Various forms of the periodic table including the left-step table, the regularization of atomic number triads and first member anomalies, Chem Texts, 2022, 8, 6. Link
  • The Tree of Life and the Table of the Elements, Oxford University Press blog, 2022. Link
  • Integrating the History and Philosophy of Science and restoring the centrality of the Periodic Table into a college general chemistry course, Chimica Nella Scuola, 4, 16-23, 2021.
  • Book review of “Orbitals”, by C. McCaw, Foundations of Chemistry, 2021, 23, 133-134.
  • Provisional report on Discussions on Group 3 of the Periodic Table, Chemistry International, January-March issue, 2021, 31-34.
  • Response to Geoffrey Neuss on how to teach the 4s 3d conundrum, Foundations of Chemistry, 2021, 23, 247-251.
  • The impact of twentieth century physics on the periodic table and some remaining questions in the twenty-first century, in Giunta, C.J.; Mainz, V. V.; Girolami, G. S. Eds. 150 Years of the Periodic Table A Commemorative Symposium; Perspectives on the History of Chemistry; Springer: Heidelberg, 2021.
  • How was Nicholson’s highly inconsistent atomic theory able to yield explanatory as well as predictive success? in Contemporary Scientific Realism: The Challenge from the History of Science, T. Lyons, P. Vickers, (eds.), Oxford University Press, New York, 2021.
  • Book review of “The Periodic Table, Past Present and Future”, by G. Rayner-Canham’s, Foundations of Chemistry, 2021, 23, 293-295.
  • Reassessing the Notion of a Kuhnian Revolution: What Happened in 20th C. Chemistry, Commentary on Wray’s claim of the discovery of atomic number as a revolution in chemistry, in Wray (ed.), Interpreting Kuhn, Cambridge University Press, 2021.
  • Causation, Electronic Configurations and the Periodic Table, Synthese, 2021, 198, 9709-9720.
  • On Chemical Natural Kinds, Journal for the General Philosophy of Science, 2020, 51, 427–445.
  • Recent attempts to improve the periodic table, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A, 2020, 378: 20190300.
  • The Periodic Table and the Turn to Practice, Studies in History and Philosophy of Science A, 2020, 79, 87-93.
  • Happy 150th Birthday to the Periodic Table, Chemistry A European Journal, 2019, 25, 7410 – 7415.
  • Can Quantum Ideas Explain Chemistry’s Greatest Icon? Nature, 2019, 565, 557-558.
  • Happy Sesquicentennial to the Periodic Table, Scientific American, January 22nd, 2019.
  • Examining the Periodic Table’s Quantum Connections, Chemical & Engineering News, 2019, 9 (31), 38-39. Link
  • Five ideas in chemical education that must die, Foundations of Chemistry, 2019, 21, 61–69.
  • Looking backwards and forwards at the development of the periodic table, Chemistry International, January-March, 16-20, 2019.
  • Response to Kragh, Bulletin for the History of Chemistry, 2018, 43, 2, 125-127.
  • Co-authored with W. Parsons, What Elements Belong in Group 3? in R. Scerri, G. Restrepo eds., Mendeleev to Oganesson, Oxford University, New York, 2018.
  • A response to Labarca and Zambon on their claimed reconceptualization of the concept of element and its basis as a new representation of the periodic system, Educacion Quimica (Mexico), 2018, 29, 9, 128-132.
  • The Periodic Table: Celebrating 150 Years in 2019, Chemical & Engineering, January 1st, 2018, 2-2.
  • Response to Vogt on A Tale of Seven Scientists, Hyle, 2018, 24, 1-4.
  • How Should the Periodic Table be Regarded? A Brief Look at Some Published Proposals, Rutherford Magazine (New Zealand), volume 5, 2018.
  • A Comment of the Srivaths – Labarca Periodic Table, Chemistry, Bulgarian Journal of Science Education, 2017, 26, 667-671.
  • El descubrimiento de la tabla periódica como un caso de descubrimiento simultáneo, Epistemologia e Historia de la Ciencia (Argentina), 2017, 1, 2.
  • The Gulf Between Chemistry and Philosophy of Chemistry, Then and Now, Structural Chemistry, 2017, 28, 1599-1605.
  • On the Madelung Rule, Response to Marc Henry’s “Super-Saturated Chemistry”, Inference (on-line inter-disciplinary journal), March, 2017. Link
  • Op-Ed, Forget genius. Science is the product of less-than-brilliant minds, Los Angeles Times, 20th February, 2017. Link
  • Another Four Bricks in the Wall, co-authored with S. Burdette, P. Ball, K. Day, B. Thornton, Nature Chemistry, 2016, 8, 283-288.
  • Which Elements Belong to Group 3 of the Periodic Table, Chemistry International, Volume 38, Issue 2, Pages 22–23, March, 2016.
  • The Changing Views of a Philosopher of Chemistry on the Question of Reduction, in R. Scerri, G. Fisher eds. Essays in the Philosophy of Chemistry, Oxford University Press, New York, 2016.
  • Science Popularization, The Competing Forces of Nationalism and Globalization in Science and a New Model of Scientific Discovery, Journal of Science Education, 2014, 15, 29-30.
  • The discovery of the periodic table as a case of simultaneous discovery, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A, A 373: 20140172, 2014.
  • Master of Missing Elements (Moseley), American Scientist, 2014, 102, 358-365.
  • On the naming and symbols for elements 115 and 112, Chemistry International, July-August, 2014, 31-32.
  • Sobre una única óptima tabla periódica, Uruguay Ciencia, 2014, 17, Marzo, 30-33.