2024 is set to be a special year for Chemistry World because it’s 20 years since we published our first issue. A lot has happened since. In 2004 there was no graphene, no Crispr, no financial crisis, no bitcoin, no President Obama, no President Trump, no Brexit, no Covid, no iPhone, no Tesla, nothing formerly known as Twitter, no ChatGPT. China had not yet become an economic and scientific superpower, and an online directory for students at Harvard was about to launch called ‘TheFaceBook’.
So throughout this year, we’ll be taking a look back at 2004 to see how much things have changed in chemistry (or in some cases, how little) and what might happen in the future. Reviewing those first issues we can see how research that showed promise back then has developed and matured – our first issue had a feature on quantum dots, for example, which picked up the most recent Nobel prize in chemistry. In other cases, some ideas and innovations haven’t quite lived up to the hype.
For the first article in our series, we’re looking at our beloved periodic table, which like many of us has gained a bit of weight since 2004. The heaviest elements that completed the eighth row of the table were added thanks to a decades-long international partnership that had already discovered several elements when we first reported on it in March 2004. It’s an inspiring story of science transcending borders as the US and Russian labs that had been divided by the iron curtain and the old rivalries of the transfermium wars became partners. Yuri Oganessian of the Russian group became only the second person to have an element named after them in their lifetime. Sadly, the story’s end after so many fruitful years also shows how fragile this collaborative science can be, as today the partnership has become another casualty of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
As we reflect on the last two decades, we also want to hear from you, our readers, without whom Chemistry World would not exist. What are your memories of the last 20 years? What were you doing in 2004? Personally, I was a freshly minted chemistry graduate in the first years of my career – some of you will have been there too. Others of you might have been coming to the end of your careers. And some of you are fortunate enough to be younger than Chemistry World and have never known a world without it. Perhaps, like our business editor Phillip Broadwith, you’re celebrating your own 20th anniversary of RSC membership this year. Whoever you are and however long you’ve been reading, send us your memories and your stories, and let’s celebrate together.