‘The Mystery of Matter: Search for the Elements‘ is an exciting series about one of the great adventures in the history of science: the long and continuing quest to understand what the world is made of. Three episodes tell the story of seven of history’s most important scientists as they seek to identify, understand and organize the basic building blocks of matter.
These episodes show us 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 working replicas of their original lab equipment. Knitting these strands together is host Michael Emerson, a two-time Emmy Award-winning actor.
Meet Joseph Priestley and Antoine Lavoisier, whose discovery of oxygen led to the modern science of chemistry, and Humphry Davy, who made electricity a powerful new tool in the search for elements. Watch Dmitri Mendeleev invent the Periodic Table, and see Marie Curie’s groundbreaking research on radioactivity crack open a window into the atom. Learn how Harry Moseley’s discovery of atomic number redefined the Periodic Table, and how Glenn Seaborg’s discovery of plutonium opened up a whole new realm of elements still being explored today.
The Mystery of Matter: Search for the Elements brings the history of science to life for today’s television audience.
Episode 1: Out of Thin Air (1754-1806)
One of science’s great odd couples — British minister Joseph Priestley and French tax administrator Antoine Lavoisier — together discover a fantastic new gas called oxygen, overturning the reigning theory of chemistry and triggering a worldwide search for new elements. Soon caught up in the hunt is science’s first great showman, a precocious British chemist named Humphry Davy, who dazzles London audiences with his lectures, introduces them to laughing gas and turns the battery into a powerful tool in the search for new elements.
Episode 2: Unruly Elements (1859-1902)
Over a single weekend in 1869, a young Russian chemistry professor named Dmitri Mendeleev invents the Periodic Table, bringing order to the growing gaggle of elements. But this sense of order is shattered when a Polish graduate student named Marie Sklodowska Curie discovers radioactivity, revealing that elements can change identities — and that atoms must have undiscovered parts inside them.
Episode 3: Into the Atom (1910-1960)
Caught up in the race to discover the atom’s internal parts — and learn how they fit together — a young British physicist, Harry Moseley, uses newly discovered X-rays to put the Periodic Table in a whole new light. And a young American chemist named Glenn Seaborg creates a new element — plutonium — that changes the world forever, unleashing a force of unimaginable destructive power: the atomic bomb.