Eric Scerri

Eric R. Scerri is a Maltese-born chemist, writer and philosopher of science.[3] He is a lecturer at the University of California, Los Angeles; and the founder and editor-in-chief of Foundations of Chemistry, an international peer reviewed journal covering the history and philosophy of chemistry, and chemical education.[4][5]

Eric Scerri
Alma materWestfield College (University of London), University of Cambridge, University of Southampton, King's College London
Scientific career
FieldsChemistry, logic, history and philosophy of science, chemical education
InstitutionsUniversity of California, Los Angeles
Doctoral advisorHeinz Post[2]
InfluencesKarl Popper

He is a world authority on the history and philosophy of the periodic table and is the author and editor of several books in this and related fields.[6] Dr. Scerri was a participant in the 2014 PBS documentary film, The Mystery of Matter.

Eric Scerri attended Walpole Grammar School in Ealing. He received his BSc from Westfield College (University of London), his Certificate in Postgraduate Study from the University of Cambridge, his MPhil from the University of Southampton, and his PhD from King's College London.[5]

Research interests

Scerri's research has mainly been in the history and philosophy of chemistry, in particular on the question of the extent to which chemistry reduces to quantum mechanics. He has specialized in the study of the periodic table of the elements, including its historical origins and its philosophical significance. More recent writings have included critiques of claims for the emergence of chemistry and the existence of downward causation.

In addition to historical and philosophical work Scerri has published numerous articles in the chemical education literature, including accounts of the electronic structures of transition metals and the occurrence of anomalous electronic configurations.

In A Tale of Seven Elements (2013) Scerri recounts the story of the discovery of the seven elements missing from the periodic table shortly after the turn of the 20th century, including the setbacks, misguided claims, and sometimes acrimonious priority debates and disputes.

In December 2015, Scerri was appointed by IUPAC as the chair of a project that will make a recommendation on the composition of group 3—whether it should be the elements Sc, Y, La and Ac; or Sc, Y, Lu and Lr.

Most recently (2016) he proposed a new evolutionary approach to the philosophy of science based on seven case studies of little known scientists such as John Nicholson, Anton Van den Broek and Edmund Stoner. Scerri has argued that these lesser known figures are just as significant as the heroic personalities in that they constitute the missing gaps in a gradual evolutionary and organic growth in the body of scientific knowledge. Although he rejects the occurrence of scientific revolutions as envisioned by Thomas Kuhn, Scerri very much supports Kuhn's notion that scientific progress is non-teleological and that there is no approach towards an external truth.

Second editions of Scerri's two most cited books were published in 2019 and 2020.



  • 2020, The Periodic Table, Its Story and Its Significance, 2nd edition, Oxford University Press, New York, ISBN 978-0190914363
  • 2019, A Very Short Introduction to the Periodic Table, 2nd edition, Oxford University Press, New York, ISBN 978-0198842323
  • 2018, Mendeleev to Oganesson: A Multidisciplinary Perspective on the Periodic Table, with co-editor G Restrepo, Oxford University Press, New York, ISBN 978-0190668532
  • 2016, A Tale of Seven Scientists, and a New Philosophy of Science, Oxford University Press, New York, ISBN 978-0190232993
  • idem., Essays in the Philosophy of Chemistry, with coauthor Fisher G Oxford University Press, New York, ISBN 9780190494599[7]
  • 2015, Philosophy of Chemistry: Growth of a New Discipline, with coauthors McIntyre L & Springer, Dordrecht, Berlin, ISBN 978-94-017-9364-3
  • 2013, A tale of seven elements, Oxford University Press, Oxford, ISBN 9780195391312
  • idem., 30-second elements: The 50 most significant elements, each explained in half a minute, as editor, Metro Books, New York, ISBN 9781435145214
  • 2011, The periodic table: A very short introduction, Oxford University Press, Oxford, ISBN 9780199582495
  • 2009, Selected papers on the periodic table, Imperial College Press, London, ISBN 9781848164253
  • 2008, Collected papers on philosophy of chemistry, Imperial College Press, London, ISBN 9781848161375
  • 2007, The periodic table: Its story and its significance, Oxford University Press, New York, ISBN 9780195305739
  • 2006, Philosophy of Chemistry: Synthesis of a New Discipline, with coauthors Baird D & McIntyre L, Springer, Dordrecht, ISBN 1402032560



  1. Rebuilding the Periodic Debate — Eric Scerri
  2. Baykoucheva S 2010, 'Eric Scerri: A philosopher's view on the periodic table of the elements and its significance', Chemical Information Bulletin, vol. 62, no. 1, Spring, pp. 27–32
  3. Rocke A 2012, 'A place at the periodic table', The Times Higher Education Supplement, 15 August
  4. UCLA Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry 2013, 'Scerri, Eric R.', University of California. For current biographical information see the home page of Eric Scerri
  5. Sella A 2013, 'An elementary history lesson', New Scientist, 13 August
  6. Ball, Philip (2017). "The Philosopher's Quest". Distillations. 3 (3): 42–45. Retrieved June 21, 2018.
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