Episode Descriptions

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—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.

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