Questions tagged [history-of-chemistry]

Questions regarding the development and exploration of chemical ideas, innovations, and discoveries.

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Comparison of oxygen and carbon-12 as standards for mass

While studying about the standards of atomic and molecular mass, I have learnt that while initially hydrogen was used as a standard of mass (its mass taken as unity), according to my book, oxygen was ...
Smarika Singh's user avatar
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Was there anything particularly unusual about that quarry near Ytterby?

It's well known that the village of Ytterby in Sweden gave its name to four elements discovered in its quarry: yttrium (Y), erbium (Er), terbium (Tb) and ytterbium (Yb). Additionally, four other ...
BenM's user avatar
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Law of multiple proportion fitting in the notion of an atom

I have been reading about atoms. Currently, I am referring to the book "Atom : Journey across the subatomic cosmos" by Issac Asmov. I believed that if we start dividing something so we can ...
Shekhar Dangi's user avatar
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1 answer
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How was it known certain materials were elemental (Hydrogen 1766, Phosphorous 1669, ...) before Dalton showed that matter was made of atoms in 1803?

Dalton showed in 1803 that matter was made of atoms rather than continuously distributed. But phosphorous, hydrogen, and other elements were identified before this discovery. How could they have known ...
imrobert's user avatar
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Whatever happened to the use of perfluoroalkanes as breathable liquids or blood substitutes?

Some liquid perfluoroalkanes have very high solubilities and carrying capacities for gases like oxygen and carbon dioxide. In the 1980s and 1990s there were experiments showing that animals could &...
matt_black's user avatar
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4 votes
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735 views

Are there common/trivial/archaic names for any of the periods of the periodic table?

There are "common names" for all of the s and p block groups of elements (alkali metals, alkaline earth metals, icosagens, crystallogens, pnicto­gens, chal­co­gens, halo­gens, noble gases) (...
Anonymous's user avatar
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2 answers
2k views

Why are "vinylic" and "allylic" carbons named so?

I find it hard to remember which is "vinylic" and "allylic" carbon, so I feel it would be easier to remember if I know the reason why they are named so, like their word root ...
saromitha kumar XA mem's user avatar
5 votes
3 answers
720 views

Why were alchemists trying to get gold particularly from mercury?

This question is on chemistry/physics/history. The first (and arguably the easiest) nuclear transmutation producing gold involved mercury, its neighbor in the periodic table. Obtaining gold from other ...
mavzolej's user avatar
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337 views

How did Joseph Proust measure mass composition of NATURALLY occurring compounds?

note: I am not a chemist, I am just interested in this Proust famously compared the mass composition by element of natural and artificially prepared copper carbonate and concluded they were the same, ...
ThatApollo777's user avatar
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How well the conclusion from the "Ignition!" book on rocket fuel science stood the test of time?

There was a wonderful book called "Ignition!" by John D. Clark, published around 1972, very interesting to read. That book covers the history of the rocket fuel development in the middle of ...
hijarian's user avatar
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Why are orbits shown out of plane in popular cartoons of atomic structure? [closed]

The (former) U.S. Atomic Energy Commission had a seal showing a symbolic view of the atom that is unrealistic but instantly recognizable: Source: https://blog.nuclearsecrecy.com/2012/04/13/friday-...
Karsten's user avatar
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2 votes
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How did Mendeleev improve on the Newland's table?

I understand that John Newland’s law of octaves was ridiculed by the scientific community as his table failed to work past calcium. I'm trying to understand how Mendeleev’s table improved on this. On ...
Quin Gardiner Bax's user avatar
10 votes
4 answers
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Are physical space filling molecular modelling kits still available anywhere?

In the 1980s when software for drawing 2D chemical structures was in its infancy and most chemists didn't have access to the workstations that could convert 2D to 3D structures, many labs had physical ...
matt_black's user avatar
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How did we know about the existence of elements before quantum theory? [duplicate]

I'm reading a book about the elements, and it says all the time: discovered/isolated by X in a year. But how did the people know about the elements before the quantum theory? How did they know they ...
Enrique's user avatar
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Is it possible that the chemical composition of Greek fire could have been an alkali metal?

"Greek fire" was an ancient weapon used by the Greeks noted as being inextinguishable by water. The chemical composition of this weapon has been debated in the historical scholarship; due to ...
Dave's user avatar
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Why is scandium not in Group 13 despite being once called "eka-boron"?

When drawing up the Periodic Table, Mendeleyev famously predicted the existence of then-unknown elements such as "eka-boron", which we now know as scandium. However, in the modern Periodic ...
dotmashrc's user avatar
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Why would tellurium + sodium hydroxide have worked as a good anti-knock gasoline additive (if it wasn't so smelly)?

The April 22, 2022 Veritasium video The Man Who Accidentally Killed The Most People In History mentions several aspects of the historical use of tetra-ethyl lead in gasoline, the resulting widespread ...
uhoh's user avatar
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Why did anyone invent the concepts of acids and bases? [closed]

I am home-schooling my son in first-year Chemistry, and I am struggling to teach Acids and Bases in a rewarding way. I am not new to Chemistry. I went to grad school in Physics and I even taught High ...
nineytoon's user avatar
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Is there a name for the law that in chemical reactions atoms are conserved?

One characteristic of chemical reactions is the trivial fact that the number of atoms of a given element is conserved. This is not conservation of mass, albeit conservation of mass is a consequence of ...
DrSvanHay's user avatar
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Producing hydrogen sulfide—difficult to do much?

When I was young (nearly sixty years ago), my "chemistry set" taught me how to heat sulfur and candle wax to stink up the house.  It had no warning that hydrogen sulfide is toxic and ...
WGroleau's user avatar
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3 answers
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What is the origin of the word salt as used in chemistry?

I have done a number of searches to determine why compounds of acids and bases are known as salts but came up empty. The fact that common salt dominates the word's usage means all my searches bring up ...
KalenGi's user avatar
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2 votes
1 answer
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Why is 1413 µS/cm specifically the "standard" conductivity standard?

I'm doing some work on conductivity sensor calibration, and noticed that all the conductivity standard suppliers offer a 1413 µS/cm standard solution. Why is this oddly specific value the "...
Michael Molter's user avatar
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194 views

What dodecahedral molecule is Linus Pauling likely holding in this photograph? Does it have 40 carbon atoms? [closed]

The video Quasicrystals ; Prof. Daniel Shechtman ; Nobel Prize in Chemistry focuses on Professor Dan Shechtman but happens to include some photos of Linus Pauling who never believed in quasicrystals. ...
uhoh's user avatar
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8 votes
1 answer
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Naming of the chemical elements and original sentences by the discoverers

Does anyone recall a printed or an online compilation where the names of all the chemical elements are listed along with the original sentence, from a research paper, containing the name of the ...
AChem's user avatar
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On what basis are the prefixes α and β given to black phosphorus?

My textbook says the following about black phosphorus: α black phosphorus is formed when red phosphorus is heated in a sealed tube at $\pu{803 K}$. β black phosphorous is prepared by heating white ...
Tatai's user avatar
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When was the mass of hydrogen known?

During Robert Milikan's time, he uses the charge-to-mass ratio from J.J. Thomson's research of the electron (which is $1.759\cdot10^{11}\ \mathrm{C/kg}$) to calculate the mass of electron. Did he know ...
Mohammad muazzam ali's user avatar
3 votes
2 answers
461 views

Why wasn't Lu Jeu Sham awarded the 1998 Nobel Prize with Walter Kohn? [closed]

Reviewing part of the history behind computational chemistry for my thesis I could not understand why only Walter Kohn was awarded the 1998 Nobel Prize in Chemistry (with John Pople getting the other ...
HCSthe2nd's user avatar
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16 votes
3 answers
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Why were quasicrystals initially so controversial?

I am a mathematician. My (limited) understanding is that quasicrystals are structured as parts of aperiodic tilings of $\mathbb{R}^3$. Such tilings were already known when Shechtman first studied his ...
George Kontogeorgiou's user avatar
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What is/was "uraneous oxide"? Was it an accepted name for a compound or mixed oxides of uranium?

In This National Technical Reports Library page for a 1965 report Method for Coating Actinide Particles in the list of keywords both Uranium compounds and Uraneous oxide are listed. But I don't find ...
uhoh's user avatar
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4 answers
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Why do chemists work with common logarithms (base 10)?

In my understanding, every operation we do in $\log_{10}$ can be done in the natural logarithm itself and it should be better because mathematical integrals naturally give out expressions involving ...
tryst with freedom's user avatar
-2 votes
1 answer
79 views

Why are electrons pictured to be revolving around the nucleus in Bohr's model [closed]

Why exactly was it guessed by Bohr that electrons do revolve around nucleus in orbits than stay stationary around it in some discreet locations corresponding to a specific energy, or go around some ...
Amey Deshpande's user avatar
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29 views

Is there a specific historical figure or era that is most responsible for our current definitions of "physical change" and "chemical change"?

I understand that there is a very blurred distinction between the idea of a physical and a chemical change at advanced levels of chemistry, so I'm referring mainly to the definitions provided in most ...
genchem_student's user avatar
9 votes
1 answer
635 views

How was pH measured back in the day if you had nothing to calibrate to?

We learn about indicators but these seem awfully useless if you have no clue what pH the color change occurs at. How did early chemists figure this out? I guess more broadly, how was the hydronium ...
cheekylittleduck's user avatar
1 vote
1 answer
270 views

Rutherford's Alpha Ray Scattering Experiment & Plum-Pudding Model

My teacher said, "Rutherford thought that all the Alpha particles would directly go through the gold foil without any collision if the plum pudding model was right. Because, as said in plum ...
Tafhimul Hasan's user avatar
1 vote
0 answers
60 views

What common observations in chemistry were unexplainable by an early twentieth century chemistry who had no knowledge of relativity

I was reading quite a well-known paper titled 'Relativistic Effects in Structural Chemistry' by PEKKA PYYKKO, and in it, he states that 'it was not until the 1970s that the full relevance of ...
DJA's user avatar
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4 votes
0 answers
692 views

Did JJ Thomson know about Eugen Goldstein’s experiment discovering canal rays?

We learn that JJ Thomson discovered the electron in 1897. Several years EARLIER in 1886, Eugen Goldstein performs the same experiment but with the anode and cathode switched to produce positively ...
suse's user avatar
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1 vote
1 answer
112 views

Who coined the term "gas evolution reaction"?

I found a paper from 1812 which specifically mentions the evolution of a gas [1]. There is a similar reference from 1808, except it uses the term evolution to speak of green light emitted when a ...
Tmax-Murray's user avatar
1 vote
2 answers
420 views

Significance of Law of reciprocal proportions

The laws of conservation of mass, definite proportions multiple proportions makes sense and were definitely useful for chemists in the early days of modern chemistry. The law of reciprocal ...
Hayden Soares's user avatar
34 votes
4 answers
8k views

Why is '-ethane' in 'methane'?

Is there a chemical or historical significance in the fact that 'ethane' is just 'methane' without the 'm'?
yolo's user avatar
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1 vote
1 answer
60 views

What does the term 'by mass' mean with respect to different contexts?

I've seen the term 'by mass' being used in various sorts of contexts. Some, while explaining the law of definite proportions say, the 'same proportions by mass', some say 'constant chemical ...
ihateelectricalphysics's user avatar
1 vote
1 answer
122 views

How would someone in 1917 describe elements 43, 61, 72, 75, 84, 85, 87, 89, and 91? [closed]

https://books.google.com/books?id=aaELAAAAYAAJ&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false Notice the list of elements on pages 62–63. It includes a short description of each element's "...
user17584's user avatar
6 votes
2 answers
2k views

What is the intuition behind 'mol' as a unit 'symbol'

Why are moles written with 'mol' as opposed to something which is easier to write with one character, or even two?
yolo's user avatar
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2 votes
1 answer
599 views

Ambiguity in definition of primary valency in Werner's theory

In Concise Inorganic Chemistry (5th Edition) on page 196 , the primary valency of $\ce{[Co(NH3)5Cl]Cl2}$ is given to be 2. In other textbooks and in the question here, we get the idea that: The ...
watcher54's user avatar
3 votes
0 answers
212 views

What is "activated red phosphorus"?

[WP = white phosphorus ; RP = red phosphorus ; ARP = activated red phosphorus] A YT channel, Extraction & Ire has a video from two years ago (2018) on converting WP to RP by keeping the former in ...
Nilay Ghosh's user avatar
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12 votes
2 answers
2k views

What is the name origin of ester?

Ester is quite a random nomenclature for a compound derived from a parent acid and parent alcohol. Is there any reasoning behind using the word 'ester' to name such compound (for memorising purpose)? ...
Bøbby Leung's user avatar
1 vote
2 answers
438 views

What lab equipment did Marie Curie use to isolate radium?

My experience in growing crystals for condensed matter physics has been sealing grams of material in ampoules which get heated in laboratory furnaces, so I don't have the experience to understand how ...
user1704042's user avatar
0 votes
1 answer
1k views

Who came up with C1V1 = C2V2? [closed]

I was wondering if there is an original scientific publication showing why $C_1V_1 = C_2V_2$ works. Or perhaps, who described/used it first?
M. Beausoleil's user avatar
5 votes
2 answers
304 views

How did Joseph Priestly discover carbon monoxide?

In my readings about the history of chemistry, I've come across the story of the incredible chemist and scientist Joseph Priestly. My question is just about one of his discoveries - the discovery of ...
CodyBugstein's user avatar
4 votes
0 answers
203 views

Does mercury(II) cyanate exist?

Recently, I have answered a question "Comparing explosive properties of mercury(II) cyanate and mercury(II) fulminate" where stability of cyanate vs fulminate was discussed. While I was ...
Nilay Ghosh's user avatar
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1 vote
1 answer
83 views

A theoretical chemistry question about elements and their presence over time [closed]

I'm not a chemist myself, but I can't think of a better place to get some insight about elements and chemistry than from people who live and breathe it here on stackexchange. This is not any kind of ...
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