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It’s official: Guinness World Records confirms St Andrews’ periodic table is oldest in the world

A St Andrews artefact is a world record breaker. Period.

A periodic table chart discovered at the university has been officially recognised as the oldest in the world by Guinness World Records.

Professor David O’Hagan, Gabriel Sewell, and Dr Alan Aitken with the world record confirmation.

The chart of elements, dating from 1885, was discovered in the school of chemistry by Dr Alan Aitken during a clear out in 2014.

The priceless table was quickly sent to be preserved for future generations.

Now fully restored, it was unveiled at a European Parliament function hosted by former St Andrews Rector, MEP Catherine Stihler, to mark the international year of the periodic table and celebrate the 150th anniversary of the creation of the periodic table.

Dmitri Mendeleev made his famous disclosure on periodicity in 1869.

VIDEO: ‘Remarkable’ discovery in St Andrews of what could be world’s oldest periodic table

The newly unearthed St Andrews table was rather similar, but not identical to Mendeleev’s second table of 1871.

A global team of international experts then pieced together its history to accurately date the chart.

It was hoped it might be the oldest surviving one in the world and following further investigations, no earlier lecture chart of the table now appears to exist.

Professor David O’Hagan, recent ex-head of chemistry said: “When I took over as head of chemistry in 2014 I was asked by the university to clear a large storage area under a lecture theatre.

“It was densely packed with chemicals and laboratory equipment left by professors who had retired over the years.

“Alan’s eye was caught by a bundle of old rolled up teaching charts which were buried deep and he was astute enough to notice this periodic table which was battered and worn.

“It was clearly an early example and we had it assessed by experts.

Professor O’Hagan with the recently conserved periodic table

“It emerged to be unique, the earliest example of a display table.

“It was a wonderful find which has caught the attention of science enthusiasts around the world.’’

Gabriel Sewell, the university’s head of special collections, added: “We are delighted that we now know when the oldest known periodic table chart came to St Andrews to be used in teaching.

“To be officially recognised by the Guinness World Records is a wonderful achievement.

“Thanks to the generosity of the National Manuscripts Conservation Trust, the table has been preserved for current and future generations to enjoy and we look forward to making it accessible to all.”

The university is planning a number of events throughout 2019 to mark International Year of the Periodic Table.

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