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Periodic Table

Dreamed 1869/2/17 by Dmitri Mendeleev, as described by Matthew Walker in Why We Sleep p. 221.

Mendeleev made his own set of playing cards, with each card representing one of the... elements and its unique chemical and physical properties. He would sit in his office, at home, or on long train rides, and maniacally deal the shuffled deck down onto a table, one card at a time, trying to deduce the rule of all rules that would explain how this... jigsaw puzzle fit together...

After allegedly having not slept for three days and three nights, he reached a crescendo of frustration with the challenge. While the extent of sleep deprivation seems unlikely, a clear truth was Mendeleev's continued failure to crack the code. Succumbing to exhaustion, and with the elements still swirling in his mind and refusing organized logic, Mendeleev lay down to sleep. As he slept, he dreamed, and his dreaming brain accomplished what his waking brain was incapable of.

The dream took hold of the swirling ingredients in his mind and, in a moment of creative brilliance, snapped them together in a divine grid, with each row (period) and each column (group) having a logical progression of atomic and orbiting electron characteristics, respectively. In Mendeleev's own words:*

I saw in a dream a table where all the elements fell into place as required. Awakening, I immediately wrote it down on a piece of paper. Only in one place did a correction later seem necessary.
While some contest how complete the dream solution was, no one challenged the evidence that Mendeleev was provided a dream-inspired formulation of the periodic table.

*Quoted by B. M. Kedrov in his text, 'On the question of the psychology of scientific creativity (on the occasion of the discovery by D. I. Mendeleev of the periodic law)." Soviet Psychology, 1957, 3:91-113.



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