Eric R. Scerri is a chemist, writer and philosopher of science of Maltese origin. He is a lecturer at the University of California, Los Angeles; and the founder and editor-in-chief of Foundations of Chemistry, an international peer reviewed journal covering the history and philosophy of chemistry, and chemical education.
|Citizenship||Joint US and UK|
|Alma mater||Walpole Grammar School, Westfield College, University of Cambridge, University of Southampton, King's College London|
|Fields||Chemistry, logic, history and philosophy of science, chemical education|
|Institutions||University of California, Los Angeles|
|Doctoral advisor||Heinz Post|
He is a world authority on the history and philosophy of the periodic table and is the author and editor of several books in this and related fields. Scerri was a participant in the 2014 PBS documentary film, The Mystery of Matter.
Scerri attended Walpole Grammar School in Ealing. He received his BSc from Westfield College (University of London), his Certificate in Postgraduate Study from the University of Cambridge, his MPhil from the University of Southampton, and his PhD from King's College London.
Scerri's research has mainly been in the history and philosophy of chemistry, in particular on the question of the extent to which chemistry reduces to quantum mechanics. He has specialized in the study of the periodic table of the elements, including its historical origins and its philosophical significance. More recent writings have included critiques of claims for the emergence of chemistry and the existence of downward causation.
In addition to historical and philosophical work Scerri has published numerous articles in the chemical education literature, including accounts of the electronic structures of transition metals and the occurrence of anomalous electronic configurations.
In A Tale of Seven Elements (2013) Scerri recounts the story of the discovery of the seven elements missing from the periodic table shortly after the turn of the 20th century, including the setbacks, misguided claims, and sometimes acrimonious priority debates and disputes.
In December 2015, Scerri was appointed by IUPAC as the chair of a project that will make a recommendation on the composition of group 3—whether it should be the elements Sc, Y, La and Ac; or Sc, Y, Lu and Lr. In January 2021, the project issued a provisional report in IUPAC's news magazine Chemistry International suggesting Sc, Y, Lu and Lr.
Most recently (2016) he proposed a new evolutionary approach to the philosophy of science based on seven case studies of little known scientists such as John Nicholson, Anton Van den Broek and Edmund Stoner. Scerri has argued that these lesser known figures are just as significant as the heroic personalities in that they constitute the missing gaps in a gradual evolutionary and organic growth in the body of scientific knowledge. Although he rejects the occurrence of scientific revolutions as envisioned by Thomas Kuhn, Scerri very much supports Kuhn's notion that scientific progress is non-teleological and that there is no approach towards an external truth.
Second editions of Scerri's two most cited books were published in 2019 and 2020.