Human molecular formula

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A human seated in the lotus position, shown as a dotted shape, each dot being an atoms, specifically 26 types of elements, show with "human molecular formula" below. The top six elements, highlighted light blew, are the CHNOPS group, aka the "Ostwaldian elements" (Ostwald, 1926). The element phosphorus, highlighted red, symbolized the "no thought without phosphorus" (Moleschott, 1849) motto.
The six CHNOPS elements plus the 16 elements shown (not highlighted), are the 22 elements of the Sterner-Elser human molecular formula (Sterner; Elser, 2000). The four elements, shown highlighted yellow, namely: boron B, tin Sn, nickel Ni, and vanadium V, are found in the Thims human molecular formula (Thims, 2002), the total formula shown above, in addition to the Sterner-Elser formula elements and the Ostwald elements, independently calculated.

In hmolscience, human molecular formula (TR:135) (LH:13) (TL:148) is the molecular formula, empirical or molecular, of a human.


In 1789, Jeans Sales, in his Philosophy of Nature, Volume Four, conjectured that there exists some "great process" by which so many millions of atoms of the earth become so many millions of "human molecules".[1]

In 1919, George Carey, in his Chemistry of Human Life, stated that a person is a "chemical formula in operation".[2]

In 1926, Wilhelm Ostwald, in his Lifelines: an Autobiography, stated that he was a "C-H-N-O-S-P combination".[3]

The first molecular formulas for an average human were calculated independently by Robert Sterner and James Elser (2000) and by Libb Thims (2002).

Sterner-Esler | 22-element formula

See main: Sterner-Elser human molecular formula

In 2000, Robert Sterner and James Elser, two American limnologists, derived a 22-element "empirical molecular formula" for a human, based on the classic six CHNOPS-elements: C, H, N, O, P, S, plus the following 16-elements: Ca, K, Cl, Na, Mg, Fe, F, Zn, Si, Cu, I, Sn, Mn, Se, Cr, and Co.[4]


The Sterner-Esler human "empirical molecular formula", which shows the the simplest positive integer ratio of atoms present in compound or molecular species, is as follows:


This 22-element formula was eventually published in their 2002 Ecological Stoiciometry, where they give a periodic table, showing the elements believed common to the mass composition of bacteria.[5]

Thims | 26-element formula

A video still stating that there are 1027 atoms in the average human.[6] The first to put the elements of an average human into the form of a formula or "human molecular formula" were limnologists Robert Sterner and James Elser (2000), who calculated a 22-element formula, and electro-chemical engineer Libb Thims (2002), who calculated a 26-element formula, independently.
See main: Thims human molecular formula

In early 2002, Libb Thims, independent of Sterner and Elser, while drafting the chapter 19 "What happens when you die?"[7], to his then three-volume Human Thermodynamics, began to ruminate on the query "what is a human?", particularly in respect to the exact second a person ceases to exist; the following are draft notes on this:

What is a human (Thims, 2002).jpg

Starting from this seedling idea, following three months of rigorous research into the mass compositions of humans, Thims derived a 26-element human molecular formula, empirical and molecular, for an average 70 kg (154 lb) person, based on the the classic six CHNOPS-elements: C, H, N, O, P, S, plus the following 20-elements: Ca, K, Cl, Na, Mg, Fe, F, Zn, Si, Cu, B, I, Sn, Mn, Se, Cr, Ni, Mo, Co, and V.[8]


The cover of Libb Thims 2008 booklet The Human Molecule, showing the 26-element "human molecular formula" on the cover, which gives short two-hundred year history of the concept of a person as a chemical or molecule, since Jean Sales coined the term "human molecule" in 1789.[9]

The Thims human "empirical molecular formula", which shows the the simplest positive integer ratio of atoms present in compound, molecule, or chemical species, is as follows:


In comparing these two formulas, the Sterner-Elser empirical human molecular formula (2000) with the Thims empirical human molecular formula (2002), we note that four elements, namely: B (boron), Ni (nickle), Sn (tin) and and V (vanadium), as shown highlighted yellow above, the functions of which in humans as summarized in "elements table" (Thims, 2008), are not seen in the Sterner-Elser formula, whereas they are shown in the Thims formula.[10] Here, in reoccurring reflection, we seem to be at a stage in evolution of human intellect, in respect to the elemental composition of humans, in regards to the seeming lack of exactness and interest in this potent subject, equivalent to how the Egyptians, four to five thousand years ago, thought the "brain" was a sort of "stuffing" for the skull, discarding it, during the embalming process, keeping the "heart", in a canopic jar, which they thought was the import part, per reason that they believed it contained the "soul" or the moral moving principle of humans. Granted, however, to note, as of 65 AE, presently, were are in a very young point in the atomic era.


The Thims human "molecular formula", which shows the atoms present in a compound, molecule, or chemical species, is as follows, ordered according to an atomic count ranking:


The first six elements, shown highlighted light blue are the CHNOPS elements. This allows one to categorize a human as a CHNOPS+20E species.

This 26-element formula was eventually printed in various early draft manuscripts, e.g. Human Thermodynamics (2002 to 2003) and Cessation Thermodynamics (2005), read by about 100 reviewers, online in 2005, in the “Molecular Evolution Table” (see: molecular evolution table), and in published book form in Human Chemistry (2007) and The Human Molecule (2008), cited variously thereafter, such as Kalyan Annamalai’s Advanced Engineering Thermodynamics (2011)[11] and Harvard’s BioNumbers (2015).[12]

End matter


  1. Sales, Jean. (1798). De la Philosophie de la Nature: ou Traité de morale pour le genre humain, tiré de la philosophie et fondé sur la nature (The Philosophy of Nature: Treatise on Human Moral Nature, from Philosophy and Nature), Volume 4 (molécules humaines, pg. 281). Publisher.
  2. Carey, George. (1919). The Chemistry of Human Life (pg. 24). Publisher.
  3. (a) Ostwald, Wilhelm. (1926-27). Lifelines: an Autobiography (Lebenslinien. Eine Selbstbiographie) (in two or three volumes). Berlin: Klasing & Co.
    (b) Farber, Eduard. (1961). Great Chemists (§:Wilhelm Ostwald, pgs. 1019-30; quote, pg. 1021). Interscience Publishers.
  4. Sterner-Elser human molecular formula – Hmolpedia 2020.
  5. Sterner, Robert and Elser, James. (2002). Ecological Stoichiometry: the Biology of Elements from Molecules to the Biosphere (human molecule, empirical formula pg. 3; discussion, pgs. 47, 135). Princeton University Press.
  6. Burgess, Dom. (2020). “Where Do You Atoms Go When You Die?” (YT) (0:54-), Dom Burgess, Jun 16.
  7. Thims, Libb. (2002). Human Thermodynamics (ch. 19: “Where Does One Go After Death”, pgs. 491-), unpublished manuscript. Chicago: Institute of Human Thermodynamics.
  8. Human molecular formula – Hmolpedia 2020.
  9. Thims, Libb. (2008). The Human Molecule (GB) (Iss) (eB) (pdf). LuLu.
  10. Thims, Libb. (2008). The Human Molecule (elements table, pgs. 52-56). LuLu.
  11. Annamalai, Kalyan, Puri, Ishwar K., and Jog, Milind A. (2011). Advanced Thermodynamics Engineering (§14: Thermodynamics and Biological Systems, pgs. 709-99, contributed by Kalyan Annamalai and Carlos Silva; §14.4.1: Human body | Formulae, pgs. 726-27; Thims, ref. 88). CRC Press.
  12. (a) Thims human molecular formula (molecular) (2015) – Harvard BioNumbers.
    (b) Thims human molecular formula (empirical) (2015) – Harvard BioNumbers.

External links

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