John Newlands

Johann Wolfgang Dobereiner

26 November 1837 – 29 July 1898


John Alexander Reina Newlands was a British chemist who worked concerning the periodicity of elements. Newlands was born in London in England, at West Square in Lambeth, the son of a Scottish Presbyterian minister and his Italian wife. Newlands was the first person to devise a periodic table of chemical elements arranged in order of their relative atomic masses. John Newlands died due to complications of surgery at his home in Lower Clapton, Middlesex and was buried at West Norwood Cemetery. His business was continued after his death by his younger brother, Benjamin.


He published in 1865 his ‘Law of Octaves’, which stated that ‘any given element will exhibit analogous behaviour to the eighth element following it in the table. Newlands arranged all of the known elements, starting with hydrogen and ending with thorium (atomic weight 232), into eight groups of seven, which he compared to octaves of music. Groups were shown going across the table, with Periods going down – the opposite from the modern periodic table.