The Mystery of Matter: Search for the Elements

Watch The Mystery of Matter: Search for the Elements

  • 2015
  • 1 Season
  • 8.1  (123)

The Mystery of Matter: Search for the Elements is a PBS documentary series that debuted in 2015. Narrated by Michael Emerson, the show takes an in-depth look at the history of chemistry, exploring the discovery of the elements that make up the world around us. The show is broken up into three episodes, each one examining the work and contributions of a different scientist. The first episode, "Out of Thin Air," focuses on the work of Joseph Priestley, an 18th-century polymath who discovered oxygen and helped lay the foundations for modern chemistry. The second episode, "Unruly Elements," examines the work of Dmitri Mendeleev, who created the periodic table of elements and showed how the properties of the elements repeat in a predictable pattern. Finally, the third episode, "Into the Atom," looks at the work of Ernest Rutherford, who discovered the structure of the atom and the presence of the proton.

Throughout each episode, the viewer is taken on a journey through the history of chemistry, from the early experiments of alchemists to the modern-day discoveries of scientists working with particle accelerators. Actors like Michael Aronov and Yan Tual appear on screen to help recreate some of the key moments in the lives of the featured scientists, bringing their stories to life in a way that is engaging and easy to follow.

One of the real strengths of The Mystery of Matter is how it manages to make chemistry accessible to people who might not know a lot about the subject. While the show does delve into some of the technical details of the experiments being discussed, it never feels overwhelming or impenetrable. Instead, the focus is on telling a compelling story of discovery and innovation, highlighting the moments where scientific breakthroughs were made and the people who made them.

In addition to presenting the history of chemistry, The Mystery of Matter also explores some of the broader societal implications of the discoveries being made. For example, in the episode "Out of Thin Air," the show examines how Priestley's discovery of oxygen was initially met with skepticism and even hostility, as it challenged established religious beliefs about the nature of the universe. Similarly, the show explores how the discovery of elements like uranium and plutonium led to the development of devastating new weapons in World War II.

Ultimately, The Mystery of Matter is an engaging and informative series that offers viewers a unique window into the world of chemistry. Whether you're a science buff or just someone interested in learning more about the history of human inquiry, this show has something to offer. With its mix of compelling storytelling, beautiful visuals, and talented actors, it's a great watch for anyone interested in exploring the mysteries of the universe.

The Mystery of Matter: Search for the Elements
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Into the Atom
3. Into the Atom
August 19, 2015
Caught up in the race to discover the atom's internal parts--and learn how they fit together--is a young British physicist named Harry Moseley, who 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.
Unruly Elements
2. Unruly Elements
August 19, 2015
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.
Out of Thin Air
1. Out of Thin Air
August 19, 2015
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.
  • Premiere Date
    August 19, 2015
  • IMDB Rating
    8.1  (123)