YouTube experiment to celebrate scientific hero

17 Aug 2012 12:09:02.843

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He is regarded as one of the fathers of modern chemistry; they are a band of award winning scientists from The University of Nottingham; and on Monday 20 August 2012 the two will come together in a YouTube experiment which will see 24 chemistry videos loaded onto the social media site over as many hours.

The award winning Periodic Table of Videos website, presented by a cast of University of Nottingham scientists, is the brainchild of film maker in residence Brady Haran. The 19th century Swedish chemist, Jons Jacob Berzelius, determined the exact elementary constituents of large numbers of compounds. He worked out the modern technique of chemical formula notation. And in 1811 he introduced the now familiar classical system of chemical symbols.

On Monday, to mark the anniversary of his birth and highlight the crucial role Berzelius played in modern chemistry, the Periodicvideos team are staging a Berzelius Day. The project is likely to be their biggest challenge yet.

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PeriodicVideos now boasts nearly 100,000 Subscribers. Their videos have been viewed some 24 million times.

The YouTube challenge

Their unique celebration of one of the world’s unsung heroes of science starts today with a brief biographical film about Berzelius and hints at what is to come. Then, just after midnight on Sunday night, a video will be loaded on the hour every hour, featuring spectacular chemical reactions from Periodicvideo’s own collection of chemistry experiments – from exploding hydrogen balloons to mind-boggling colour changes.

Brady said: “Scheduling 24 short videos in a day, like this, is very unusual and it will be fascinating to see how the viewers react to our chemistry marathon. It will also be intriguing to follow responses to the videos as they trickle out, spanning every timezone on the planet. The best way to follow the videos on Berzelius Day is subscribing for free to the Periodicvideos channel on YouTube. The address is and press the SUBSCRIBE button.”

One of the lead presenters of PeriodicVideos is Martyn Poliakoff, Research Professor of Chemistry. He has become a familiar face to millions of YouTube followers around the world. He said: “Berzelius is one of the unsung heroes of science. Because of our tremendous international following we will be able to let the world know what this remarkable 18th century chemist achieved and the impact he had on our lives.”

Proud academic ancestry

Professor Poliakoff, who was awarded this year’s Royal Society of Chemistry’s Nyholm Prize for Education for his work on the Periodic Table of Videos, can trace his own ‘academic’ parentage to Berzelius. If you follow his scientific ancestry his PhD supervisor’s, supervisor’s supervisor, and so on……it turns out that Berzelius was his scientific great, great, great, great, great, great grandfather!

Professor Poliakoff said: “I am sure the same is probably true for thousands of chemists around the world but it is a heritage I am proud of. Our Berzelius Day will serve to explain why I, like many other chemists, want the work of Berzelius to be more widely recognised.”

Launched in 2008 the Periodic Table of Videos, presented by a band of hand-picked chemists and recipients of a host of communications and science education awards, has inspired a new generation of would-be scientists and chemistry enthusiasts. Now it is their turn to say thank you to one of the scientists who inspired them.

The image of Jons Jacob Berzelius courtesy of ©The Royal Society.

Story credits

More informationis available from Professor Martyn Poliakoff, at The University of Nottingham, on +44 (0)115 951 3520,; or Brady Haran, at The Periodic Table of Videos,

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