‘The elements’ outlines the history of the study of elements. Ancient Greeks had just four elements, which they believed possessed the shape of the platonic solids. They also believed that the four elements each possessed abstract qualities, a belief which later evolved into the concept of periodicity. Some elements have been known for millennia (indeed, ages have been named after them). Others have required technological advancements in order to be isolated. Elements have been named by a variety of means, which has caused controversy among discoverers. Alchemists applied symbols to elements based on associated planets and celestial bodies. This was replaced by the lettered system we use today.