The Periodic Kingdom: A Journey into the Land of the Chemical Elements

The Periodic Kingdom: A Journey into the Land of the Chemical Elements


The Periodic Kingdom: A Journey into the Land of the Chemical Elements is a publication authored by Peter William Atkins, a professor within the chemistry section of the University of Oxford. The book was initially available in print in the period 1970 with several reprints the most recent being in the year 2008. The 1970 edition was issued by Basic Books while the most recent has been availed by Paw Prints. The publication falls within the Science fiction genre containing one hundred and sixty one pages. The book discusses the periodic table in a simplistic yet poetic manner that infuses an element of interest into the reader. The simplistic manner in which the publication has been documented makes it an appealing book to individuals that lack chemistry knowledge and thereby indicating this as the possible targeted audience. Professor Atkins metaphorically holds the periodic tables as a kingdom in which he leads the reader to learn the various subjects involved in its service. This positive approach aids the reader into acquiring the fundamental concepts involved in the periodic table in a way that is easily recollected.


The plot is divided into three sections referred to as Geography, History, and Government and Institutions. The initial chapter, The Terrain, introduces the reader to “the Periodic Kingdom…a land of the imagination…the kingdom of the chemical elements…the substances from which everything tangible is made,” (Atkins 3). These preceding statements offer the setting of the novel although the reader is guided by the disclaimer that the empire “is closer to reality than it appears,” (Atkins 3) into the knowledge that the metaphors used are actually in existence. The characters employed by Professor Atkins are identified as totaling to at least one hundred ‘regions’ the phrase used to refer to elements within the periodic table. The second and third chapters known as The Products of the Regions and the Physical Geography respectively focus on the physical description of the regions involved within the kingdom. Having identified the traits attributed to each region, the writer shifts the setting into the knowledge genesis of the elements as deeply provided in the History section: the History of Discovery, the Naming of the Regions, the origin of the Land and the Cartographers. This information is covered in chapters four through seven. The last section, Government and Institutions covered in four chapters discusses the laws that operate within each element and the product of regional merging. The Laws of the Interior provide information regarding the nucleic region whereas the Laws of the Exterior discuss the electrons and their application in bonding as presented in the Liaisons and Alliances chapter. The Regional Administration chapter deals with the description of the mutual characteristics operating within each region like the halogens or the alkaline earth metals.

The scientific principles discussed in the book are the physical attributes of each periodic table element. The allegory created throughout the book is logical and reasonable to the reader as it accords pictorial presentations as well as simplistic explanations for the discussed elements. For instance, the author employs detailed descriptive imagery in his phrases like “from overhead we see that it stretches in a great vista, from hydrogen to the distant uranium. There are known regions beyond uranium, but in the far distance lies an unexplored horizon awaiting a new Columbus,” (Atkins 4). The hint provided to the reader is that hydrogen marks the initial element within the periodic table whereas uranium acts as the last well-known region. However, the author also points that subsequent to uranium, other elements have been discovered yet that which need more studies for a quantifiable knowledge of each to be attained. Another fine example can be depicted from the statement found within the Liaisons and Alliances chapter describing compounds as “intimate intermarriages of the atoms of the regions, not mere mixtures,” (Atkins 137). This aids the reader into the knowledge that atomic bond is a pre-requisite for the materialization of the compounds. This atomic bonding acts as the difference between compounds and mixtures in chemistry.


With the book encompassing the creation of a fictional kingdom that is an actual representation of elements, the author has made a tremendous job in aiding the student into the basic knowledge of the periodic table. The approach used by the author is an interactive experience for the reader and from a subjective perspective, this acted as the main point of interest. Critical thinking and reconstruction is necessitated within the reader for comprehensive purposes and the merit associated to this element, especially for students, is that meaningful learning takes place. The limitation infused by the text is that, it cannot be relied as an independent chemistry book that a learner may use to acquire the full understanding of the periodic table since it covers only the basics. Therefore, it only works best as a complementary learning resource whose effectuality is realized upon the combination with a credible academic resource. The theme of elements is well covered within the first nine chapters and only the last three explore alternative forms of elements like the compounds. This ensured that the theme was exhaustively covered. The metaphors used enhance critical judgment and association with the real elements for the reader to analyze the presence of congruence. The chapters aid the writer into achieving a hierarchical progressive structure in the subject of elements and this provides a platform for an in-depth textual analysis.




In conclusion, Professor Atkins publication is a very informative text that is useful for different learning levels beginning with high school and college student. For high school, the book aids in the delivery of the fundamental concepts operating within the periodic table as a complementary source. For college students, the book is quite useful in creating a deeper understanding of the elements like the individual researchers involved in the unearthing and designation of the elements. The fiction used makes the subject more interesting and this is very useful in the learning environment. It is an interesting learning instrument that I recommend for use for learners that encounter difficulties in the science involved in the periodic table.

Works Cited:

Atkins, Peter. The periodic kingdom: a journey into the land of the chemical elements. New York, NY: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1995. Print.





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