The structure of atoms and the significance of protons will come in a following chapter, so for the moment all that is necessary is to appreciate the organizing principle: hydrogen has just one proton, and so it has an atomic number of one and comes first on the chart; uranium has ninety-two protons, and so it comes near the end and has an atomic number of ninety-two. In this sense, as Philip Ball has pointed out, chemistry really is just a matter of counting. (Atomic number, incidentally, is not to be confused with atomic weight, which is the number of protons plus the number of neutrons in a given element.) There was still a great deal that wasn't known or understood.
Hydrogen is the most common element in the universe, and yet no one would guess as much for another thirty years. Helium, the second most abundant element, had only been found the year before—its existence hadn't even been suspected before that—and then not on Earth but in the Sun, where it was found with a spectroscope during a solar eclipse, which is why it honors the Greek sun god Helios. It wouldn't be isolated until 1895. Even so, thanks to Mendeleyev's invention, chemistry was now on a firm footing.