Dreaming About Art [and] Science

UWEC collaboration explores the dream that unlocked the periodic table

by Julie Poquette

A MAN IN HIS ELEMENT(S). Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev is most famous for creating the periodic table; he claimed its structure came to him in a dream. This scientific revelation is the inspiration for a unique event created by UW-Eau Claire faculty in both the arts and sciences, titled “Dmitri’s Dream.”
A MAN IN HIS ELEMENT(S). Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev is most famous for creating the periodic table; he claimed its structure came to him in a dream. This scientific revelation is the inspiration for a unique event created by UW-Eau Claire faculty in both the arts and sciences, titled “Dmitri’s Dream.”

‘You never know where your dreams might take you” may ring true for some, but Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev saw a clear path forward after awakening from a dream back in the 1860s.

That dream and its result – the periodic table of the elements – will be the focal point of “Dmitri’s Dream: Discovering the Alphabet of the Universe” on Tuesday, Dec. 3, a presentation of UW-Eau Claire’s Art AND Science program. The event will begin at 7pm in the Jamf Theatre at Pablo Center at the Confluence in downtown Eau Claire.

“I saw in a dream a table where all elements fell into place as required,” the Russian chemist is quoted as saying. “Awakening, I immediately wrote it down on a piece of paper, only in one place did a correction later seem necessary.”

Mendeleev, who lived from 1834-1907, is credited with creating the periodic table of the elements in 1869. In celebration of the 150th anniversary of his accomplishment, UWEC faculty and students will combine narrations drawing on history, science, and lived experience with performances of poetry, music ,and theater arts as they explore the full meaning of one chemist’s decision to act on his dream more than a century ago.

Among participants in the “Dmitri’s Dream” performance will be Max Garland, UWEC emeritus of English and former Wisconsin poet laureate, and Dr. David Lewis, UWEC professor of chemistry, along with faculty colleagues and students from other academic areas of the university.

“Dmitri’s Dream” is the sixth event of the Art AND Science program, which celebrates the common driving force behind the sciences and the arts: curiosity. In an effort to increase cross-disciplinary engagement, the program’s events explore how an understanding of the universe through the application of the scientific method is deeply linked in multiple ways to the expression of art in its multiple forms.

The Art AND Science program is sponsored by the UW-Eau Claire Foundation. Faculty involved in planning “Dmitri’s Dream” are Garland; Dr. Wendy Makoons Geniusz, associate professor of languages; Arthur Grothe, associate professor of theatre arts; Dr. Matt Jewell, associate professor of materials science and engineering; Dr. David Lewis, professor of chemistry; Allyson Loomis, associate professor of English; Jill Olm, associate professor of art & design; Dr. Jim Rybicki, assistant professor of physics and astronomy; Dr. Paul Thomas, professor of physics and astronomy; and Dr. Stephanie Turner, professor of English.


Art AND Science: Dmitri’s Dream When: Tuesday, Dec. 3, 7pm Where: Jamf Theatre, Pablo Center at the Confluence, 128 Graham Ave., Eau Claire. Cost: $5. Tickets available at pablocenter.org