The Periodic Table: A Treasure Trove of Passion, Adventure, Betrayal & Obsession

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The 2019 Karlovitz Lecture and a Frontiers in Science Lecture to celebrate 2019, the International Year of the Periodic Table

The 2019 Karlovitz Lecture will be delivered by best-selling author Sam Kean.

Kean's book about the periodic table, "The Disappearing Spoon," answers many uncommon questions about chemical elements: Why did Gandhi hate iodine? Why did the Japanese kill Godzilla with missiles made of cadmium? How did radium nearly ruin Marie Curie’s reputation? And why did tellurium lead to the most bizarre gold rush in history? 

According to Kean, the periodic table is one of humanity’s crowning scientific achievements, but it’s also a treasure trove of passion, adventure, betrayal, and obsession.

About the Speaker
Best-selling author Sam Kean’s book “The Disappearing Spoon” delves into every element in the periodic table and explains each one’s role in science, money, mythology, war, the arts, medicine, alchemy, and other areas of human history, from the Big Bang through the end of time.

In addition to “The Disappearing Spoon,” Sam Kean has several other titles on the New York Times bestselling list: “Caesar’s Last Breath,” “The Dueling Neurosurgeons,” and “The Violinist’s Thumb.” All of  his books were named Amazon top science books of the year. His work has been featured on NPR’s “Radiolab,” “All Things Considered,” and “Fresh Air.”

Sam Kean will sign books after the lecture.

About the Karlovitz Lecture
The lecture is made possible by an endowment in memory of College of Sciences Dean Les Karlovitz, who served as dean for 16 years until 1989. Seeking to broaden intellectual discourse on campus, the series focuses on speakers whose work has led them to stretch across disciplinary boundaries. 

About Frontiers in Science Lectures
Lectures in this series are intended to inform, engage, and inspire students, faculty, staff, and the public on developments, breakthroughs, and topics of general interest in the sciences and mathematics. Lecturers tailor their talks for nonexpert audiences.

About the Periodic Table Frontiers in Science Lecture Series
Throughout 2019, the College of Sciences will bring prominent researchers from Georgia Tech and beyond to expound on little-discussed aspects of chemical elements:

  • Feb. 6, James Sowell, How the Universe Made the Elements in the Periodic Table
  • March 5, Michael Filler, Celebrating Silicon: Its Success, Hidden History, and Next Act
  • April 2, John Baez, University of California, Riverside, Mathematical Mysteries of the Periodic Table 
  • April 18, Sam Kean, Author, The Periodic Table: A Treasure Trove of Passion, Adventure, Betrayal, and Obsession 
  • Sept. 12, Monica Halka, The Elusive End of the Periodic Table: Why Chase It
  • October 31, Taka Ito, Turning Sour, Bloated, and Out of Breath: Ocean Chemistry under Global Warming 
  • Nov. 12, Margaret Kosal, The Geopolitics of Rare and Not-So-Rare Elements

Closest visitor parking is Area 6 (Fifth Street and Spring) or Area 8 (Tech Square) on the parking map, https://pts.gatech.edu/visitors#l3.


  • Workflow Status: Published
  • Created By: A. Maureen Rouhi
  • Created: 03/27/2019
  • Modified By: A. Maureen Rouhi
  • Modified: 03/27/2019