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ERIC Number: EJ1028583
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2013-Dec
Pages: 6
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: N/A
ISSN: ISSN-0021-9584
What Do Chemists Mean When They Talk about Elements?
Ghibaudi, Elena; Regis, Alberto; Roletto, Ezio
Journal of Chemical Education, v90 n12 p1626-1631 Dec 2013
Throughout the centuries, the concept of "element" has undergone a clear evolution from a strictly philosophical area to the scientific domain, although the conceptual progress has not always gone along with a terminological evolution. Some inconsistencies in the definition of element can be found in several precollege and university-level textbooks, which creates confusion about the concepts of "element" and of "simple substance" and raises a teaching problem. In this paper, a survey of the historical evolution of the idea of element is followed by the critical review of some definitions of element found in the scientific literature and in textbooks. We discuss a definition of element consistent with current scientific knowledge that overcomes the ambiguity between the concepts of element and simple substance at the level of instruction.
Division of Chemical Education, Inc and ACS Publications Division of the American Chemical Society. 1155 Sixteenth Street NW, Washington, DC 20036. Tel: 800-227-5558; Tel: 202-872-4600; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: High Schools; Secondary Education; Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A