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Fascinating stories behind study of elements in earlier days

There are several elements that we know today, but have you ever wondered what might have lead to the identification of these? Were the people afraid of them or they enjoyed finding more new elements? If you are curious to know about them, then read this blog further and get to know some interesting stories behind the study of elements.

Let’s get started!

Barium was mistaken for witchcraft

Today, barium is a pretty common element that is used to make paper whiter, paints brighter, and as a catalyst to block X-rays. But in the Middle Ages, it was nowhere same as we think of it today. These smooth stones were found mostly around Bologna, Italy and were popular among witches due to their tendency to glow in the dark after being exposed to light for a short amount of time.

The name debate for Tungsten

Plenty of the names and symbols of the elements don’t seem to relate, that’s because their symbol comes from another language such as the  gold’s whose Latin translation is “Aurum” and thus the symbol became “Au.” The exception is Tungsten, whose symbol is “W.” The English-speaking scientists called it “Tungsten,” but it was first isolated from the mineral Wolframite, and in some circles, it retained its old name. The Spanish chemists, in particular, argued that “Wolfram” shouldn’t have been dropped off as the official name for Tungsten.

Fluorine’s Challenge

The first observations of the existence of fluorine came in the 1500s when a German mineralogist described it as a material that acted as a catalyst to lower the melting point of ore. Furthermore, in 1670, a glassworker accidentally found that fluorspar and acids would react and used the reaction to etch glass. Isolating fluorine proved much more difficult and deadly, and thus the scientists had to first introduce the technology and machinery to do the same.

Seven Elements from One Mine

Ytterbium, yttrium, terbium, and erbium, they all sound similar, and there’s a reason that they’re listed together. All of them were found in an unlikely way. In 1843, when the scientists Carl Gustaf Mosander, separated gadolinite, then it got converted into some rare Earth elements namely yttria, erbia, and terbia. However, his findings got misplaced and erbia came to be known as terbia, while terbia was called erbia. Furthermore, it was found that erbia was broken down into two more substances that is ytterbia and another form of erbia. And the ytterbia was combination of neoytterbium and lutecium. Extremely confusing indeed!

Aluminum was costlier than gold

The researchers had found aluminum long before they had enough technological know-how to optimally isolate it. And that’s the reason why it became insanely costly. Also it was found that the first President of French Republic used to serve food in the aluminum sets, the king of Denmark wore an aluminum crown, upscale Parisian ladies used to wear aluminum jewelry and used opera glass made of aluminum to show off their wealth.

Did you enjoy reading this blog? If yes, then stay tuned as many more are yet to be published.

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