Named for the Siberian-born chemist Dmitri Ivanovich Mendeleev, who is the creator of the periodic table. He spent most of his career teaching at St. Petersburg. I thought it was important to emphasize his left side brain activity typical of a scientist, a mathematician. He was known as a genius for leaving gaps in the periodic table for elements yet to be discovered. As Director of Weights and Measures, he formulated a new standard for the production of vodka: all vodka had to be produced at 40% alcohol by volume. Mendeleev was a scholar who won a gold medal for being 1st in his class. He was awarded the Davy medal in 1882. He is also known for his work with petroleum, engineering and agriculture. He wrote books and developed theories, his peers knew him as a great physicist and scientist. He is credited with introducing Russia to the metric system. He drew worldwide recognition from scholars, universities and academies. He believed that science must be complemented by knowledge of religious and artistic sources. Russia lost a great scientist when he passed away in 1907. Just prior to his death he had been contemplating a journey to the North Pole by hot air balloon.
Uranium was discovered in 1841 and is named after the planet Uranus. It is the heaviest of the natural elements and was the first element discovered to be radioactive in 1896. Uranium is best known for use in the atomic bomb and in nuclear reactors, however, I chose to represent this element in one of the earliest uses which was to color glass and ceramic glazes.
The discovery of curium, which along with americium was linked to the Manhattan Project, was leaked on the US radio show Quiz Kids five days before its official presentation at the American Chemical Society meeting in 1945. It is a product of the bombardment of uranium or plutonium and is used in pacemakers and as an energy source on space missions. It is named for the Pierre and Marie Curie, who discovered radium and were known for their work on radioactivity.
When I asked my husband the physicist to describe plutonium, he said, “Plutonium gives birth to many other elements,” which struck me as a rather poetic way to describe something so deadly. Intrigued by the birthing image, I searched for images of birthing and quickly realized that most would be inappropriate for a younger viewing audience. I was, however, struck by the beautiful mandalas I found, and their similarity to circular images portraying the nuclear fission process, and thus the circular image used. Inward stitched arrows portray the fission process, the small arrows pointing outwards represent the energy released, and the flowers around the edge symbolize the 18 elements created through the fission process. By using both blue, which is associated with water and life, and black, which is associated with death, I hope to capture tension between creation and destruction.
Californium is a radioactive metal that has not been produced yet because its compounds resist reduction. It is readily expected to be attacked by air, steam and acids. Discovered in 1950, its atomic number is 98. A traditional quilt block The Road to California represents #98. It was a road with many perils. I have great admiration for the ancestors who settled our country. I included cactus, oxen, antelope and a lone wagon to commemorate the journey. I think I watched way too many episodes of Wagon Train growing up!
Of no practical use whatsoever, and one of the rarest naturally ocurring elements, Protactinium is found in minute quantities as a by-product of uranium decay. Predicted to exist by Mendeleev the missing element 91 was actually discovered in the laboratory in 1913. In 1961 scientists in England were able to produce about 4 ounces of 99.9% pure protactinium, although they had to process about 60 tons of radioactive waste and spend about $500,000 to get it.
With a half life of 32,760 years, Protactinium is highly radioactive and highly toxic. Found in only 1 part per trillion in the environment, Protactinium was discovered in the laboratory and, thankfully, there it remains solely as the subject of basic research.