Ida Freund (1863–1914) was the first woman to be a university chemistry lecturer in the United Kingdom. She is known for her influence on science teaching, particularly the teaching of women and girls. She wrote two key chemistry textbooks and invented the idea of baking periodic table cupcakes.
Ida was the first person to bake a set of periodic table cupcakes. She used them as teaching aids in her classroom. She created boxes of chocolates with pictures of scientists and a large periodic table with each element represented by a cupcake decorated with its name and atomic number in icing.
One of her students described her approach:
“In my year we were requested to go and make a further study of the ‘Periodic Table of the Elements.’ We found a very large board with the Table set out. The divisions across and down were made with Edinburgh Rock, numbers were made of chocolate, and the elements were iced cakes each showing its name and atomic weight in icing. The nonvalent atoms were round, univalent had a protruding corner, bivalent two, trivalent triangular and so on. We divided it up between us!”
Based on her original idea, periodic table cupcakes have become a popular and fun way to celebrate chemistry at school bake sales and events aiming to promote public engagement with science. The Royal Society of Chemistry celebrated the launch of the Visual Elements Periodic Table with a set of periodic table cupcakes and students at Nottingham University did similary for the birthday of Martyn Poliakoff. A video showing the collection of cakes is included in Professor Poliakoff’s series of online videos ‘Periodic Videos’ Periodic Videos aim to bring chemistry to a new generation of students.