This is going to be tricky because the discovery/synthesis of elements has taken place over centuries. It might be best to restrict this purely to the elements contained on Dmitri Mendeleyev's table, but I'd let the community decide. It may be too broad if all the elements are included, so this may be the best course of action.

Anyway, my question is fairly straightforward. When (and by who) were the elements on the periodic table (the modern-day one or simply Mendeleyev's) first standardized? I'd prefer that any answers not use Wikipedia.

  • $\begingroup$ I believe that these are just the abbreviations of their Latin names. Or you are asking when the need to abbreviate the names come? $\endgroup$ Nov 25, 2014 at 2:14
  • $\begingroup$ I also did not understand your "restriction": all elements are in Mendeleev's table. Or you propose to restrict to those which were known at the time of Mendeleev? Why? Not so many were added. $\endgroup$ Nov 25, 2014 at 3:35
  • $\begingroup$ I am quite sure that French people used Az (azote) instead of N for nitrogen for a long time. $\endgroup$
    – mau
    Nov 25, 2014 at 13:26
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexandreEremenko Um, there were quite a lot synthesized in the 150+ years after Medeleyev. Re the Latin names: Not for a lot of them, because they didn't have Latin names (did they? I could be wrong). For example, oxygen was not isolated as an element for about a century or so before Mendeleyev (perhaps later). $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868
    Nov 25, 2014 at 16:53
  • $\begingroup$ @HDE 226868: My impression that at the time of Mendeleev, abbreviations for the known elements were standard (I suppose they developed in medieval alchemistry, but I am not sure). Since the time of Mendeleev they just followed the old tradition and gave to the newly discovered or synthesized elements two latter labels together with names. $\endgroup$ Nov 25, 2014 at 20:47

2 Answers 2


Elements were standardized before we were even talking about chemistry: The alchemical elements were all well-known to those dabbling in that "science". This should put the answer to your question around 1670 according to the Proposal for Alchemical Symbols in Unicode

As for modern chemical symbols, the first notation approximation of modern elements I could find are John Dalton's elements in 1808 where we can still clearly see alchemical influences on his representations of elements, though evolving more towards modern notation.

In the virtual tour of the basement of the Museum of the History of Science in Oxford, you will find Charles Daubeny's "Symbols of Simple bodies" dated to 1831.

So not an exact date, but depending on your definition of "(al)chemical elements" middle of the 17th century or early 19th century.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Note B for Bromine in Daubeny (and not for Boron) ... the others seem to be the modern abbreviations. $\endgroup$ Mar 26, 2018 at 16:25
  • $\begingroup$ @GeraldEdgar Well spotted, my friend... i missed that completely! $\endgroup$
    – Fabby
    Mar 27, 2018 at 19:00

The symbols that we now use for the elements were first introduced by Jacob Berzelius the Swedish chemist. This would have been approximately in the 1820s if I recall correctly.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.