The Mystery of Matter

The Mystery of Matter:
Search for the Elements

Periodic Table of ElementsPeriodic Table of Elements Alchemy pageThe Origins of Chemistry – Historian Lawrence Principe explains chemistry’s roots in alchemy, a laboratory tradition that was about much more than the misbegotten effort to turn lesser metals into gold.

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The Project

The Mystery of Matter: Search for the Elements is a multimedia project about one of the great adventures in the history of science: the long (and continuing) quest to understand what the world is made of – to identify, understand and organize the basic building blocks of matter. In a nutshell, the project is about the human story behind the Periodic Table of the Elements.

The centerpiece of the project is an Emmy Award-winning three-hour series that premiered Aug. 19, 2015 on PBS. The Mystery of Matter introduces viewers to some of history’s most extraordinary scientists: Joseph Priestley and Antoine Lavoisier, whose discovery of oxygen—and radical interpretation of it—led to the modern science of chemistry; Humphry Davy, who made electricity a powerful new tool in the search for elements; Dmitri Mendeleev, whose Periodic Table brought order to the growing gaggle of elements; Marie Curie, whose groundbreaking research on radioactivity cracked open a window into the atom; Harry Moseley, whose investigation of atomic number redefined the Periodic Table; and Glenn Seaborg, whose discovery of plutonium opened up a whole new realm of elements, still being explored today.

The Mystery of Matter shows not only what these scientific explorers discovered but also how, using actors to reveal the creative process through the scientists’ own words, and conveying their landmark discoveries through re-enactments shot with replicas of their original lab equipment. And knitting these strands together into a coherent, compelling whole is host Michael Emerson, a two-time Emmy Award-winning actor best known for his roles on Lost and Person of Interest.

Attention Teachers: May 4 Webinar on Mystery of Matter Educational Materials

In a two-part webinar, producer Stephen Lyons first gives a guided tour of the Mystery of Matter: Search for the Elements website, revealing all the free educational resources developed for the three-hour, Emmy Award-winning PBS chemistry series, including a Teacher’s Guide, 60 short film clips lifted from the series, and 32 short videos comprising more than five hours of additional chemistry programming, touching on a range of topics related to the chemistry curriculum. (The Teacher’s Guide includes alignments with the NRC’s National Science Education Standards and with the Next Generation Science Standards.) Then high school chemistry & physics teacher Sue Klemmer shares ways to use the Mystery of Matter resources in self-paced and whole-class instruction to meet national and local science education standards. Hosted by the American Association of Chemistry Teachers, the one-hour webinar takes place from 7-8 pm eastern time on Thursday, May 4, 2017. You can join us live or, if you miss it, check out the archived webinar at the link below:

Promo Video

60-second Promo

Featured Video

Davy's Greatest Failure - With his attention diverted by electricity, lecturing and discovering new elements, Davy failed to follow up on own observation that nitrous oxide dulls pain, delaying the adoption of anesthesia for 40 years and condemning thousands to needless surgical pain.

To watch more videos like this one, check out the Mystery of Matter Video Library.

The Mystery of Matter: Search for the Elements
was produced by Moreno/Lyons Productions LLC.

Major funding for The Mystery of Matter: Search for the Elements was provided by the National Science Foundation, where discoveries begin. Additional funding provided by The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations, dedicated to strengthening America’s future through education.

Support for the development of The Mystery of Matter project was provided by the Chemical Heritage Foundation, The Otto Haas Charitable Trust and The Camille & Henry Dreyfus Foundation.

Support for The Mystery of Matter website and educational applications was provided by the Wyncote Foundation,The Dreyfus Foundation and the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations.

All support for The Mystery of Matter was administered by Filmmakers Collaborative.

The Mystery of Matter: Search for the Elements is a production of Moreno/Lyons Productions in association with Oregon Public Broadcasting, which are solely responsible for its content. The series was filmed in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts with the support of the Massachusetts Film Office.
© 2015 Moreno/Lyons Productions LLC. All rights reserved.

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