I'm arriving after the war, but this is an interesting question, so I'm going to write up what I understand about it.

First of all, for a comprehensive mathematical understanding of the periodic table, you have to settle on a model. The relevant one here is quantum mechanics (for large atoms, relativistic effects start to become important, and that's a whole mess). It's entirely axiomatic, and requires no further tweaking. Then you basically have to solve an eigenvalue on a space of functions of $6N$ coordinates (ignoring spin). That gives you a "mathematical explanation" of the table, in the sense that knowledge of the solution $\psi(x_1,x_2,\dots,x_N)$ is all there is to know about the static structure of an atom. Notice that in this formulation, all electrons are tied together inside one big wavefunctions, so an "electronic state" has no meaning. Mendeleev table is not even compatible with this formulation.

Of course, solving the full eigenproblem is not possible, so all you can do is mess around with approximations. A simplistic but illuminating approximation is to completely neglect electron repulsion. Great simplification occurs, and it turns out one can speak of "electronic states". Non-trivial behaviour occurs because of the Pauli exclusion principle. This is known as the "Aufbau" principle: one builds atoms by successively adding electrons. The first electron gets itself into the lowest energy shell, then the second one gets into the same state, but with opposite spin. The third begins to fill the second shell (which has three spaces, times two because of spin), and so on. This is the basic idea behind the table, and provides a clue as to why it is organised the way it is. So this might be the theory you're looking for. It's explicitely solvable, and only requires the theory of the hydrogenoid atoms.

Of course, because of the approximations, the quantitative results are all wrong, but the organisation is still there. Except for larger elements, where the Mendeleev table is, from what I understand, an ad-hoc hack. You can improve the approximation using ideas like "screening", and this leads to the Hartree-Fock method, which still preserves the notion of shells.

Hope that helps. Then again, if you're looking for a completely logical approach to physics that'll readily explain real life, you're bound to be disappointed. Even simple theories such as the quantum mechanics of atoms are too hard to be solved exactly, which is why we have to compromise and make approximations.

This post imported from StackExchange MathOverflow at 2016-03-29 20:10 (UTC), posted by SE-user Antoine Levitt