How can we determine the atomic mass of an unknown pure sample of an element without using modern techniques like spectroscopy etc... basically I'm interested to know that which physical methods or techniques of wet chemistry used by scientists like Berzilius to find atomic masses of elements without modern day techniques !! Often methods like Dulong-petite method needs specific heat of solids but again we have some elements like carbon and beryllium which don't have constant heat capacity...so how techniques like crystallization and filtration were used to determine atomic masses?


1 Answer 1


Really this is a long comment...

In gist, mass and volume were early techniques to determine relative mass between particular elements. But your question is very, very broad. It would take a book to really sort your question out.

  • Not all the elements were discovered at the same time, and chemical techniques improved over the ages.
  • The periodic table was worked out over decades of work.
  • Realize too that not only did early scientists have to figure out that a particular element existed, but it was a massive amount of work to figure out how to get that particular element relatively pure.
  • You'll also have to throw in scientists figuring out that there are isotopes.

So the periodic table and atomic masses weren't figured out in some straight line path. It was more like square dancing - up to the middle and back.

  • $\begingroup$ ok I understand the process is long but can you comment about discovery of atomic masses of few elements like carbon and chlorine? $\endgroup$
    – Abhishek
    Jul 13, 2023 at 8:48
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ For carbon, see section "History and etymology" at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon For chlorine see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chlorine $\endgroup$
    – MaxW
    Jul 13, 2023 at 18:03

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