Chemical Elements - How They Were Discovered by D. N. Trifonov

By D. N. Trifonov

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It is rather difficult to separate the history of nitrogen discovery from the mainstream of pneumatic chemistry; one can only think of a more or less logical sequence of events. Ch. 3. Elements of Air and Water 51 Very early in history man came across nitrogen compounds, for instance, saltpeter and nitric acid, frequently observing liberation of brown vapours of nitrogen dioxide. Obviously, it would be impossible to discover nitrogen by decomposing its inorganic compounds. Tasteless, colourless, odorless, and chemically rather inactive, nitrogen would have remained unnoticed.

With the development of book-printing bismuth, along with antimony, began to be used for casting typographical types. In literature few elements have such a great number of names as bismuth. E. von Lippmann in his book History of Bismuth from'1480 to 1800 gives twenty Ch. 2. Elements Discovered in the Middle Ages 41 one names of this metal used in Europe. A sufficiently clear idea of bismuth as an independent metal was formed only in the 18th century. Zinc Zinc is also one of the elements whose compounds have been known to mankind from time immemorial.

Inflammable air was surprisingly light. H. Cavendish found that phlogiston, which he had separated, had a mass. He was the first to introduce a quantity to characterize gases, that of density. Having assumed Ch. 3. 57 for fixed air. But here a contradiction arose between Cavendish the experimenter and Cavendish the adherent of the phlogistic theory. Since inflammable air had a positive mass, it could by no means be considered to be pure phlogiston. Otherwise, metals losing inflammable air would have to lose mass as well.

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