Questions tagged [history-of-chemistry]

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

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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 "...
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Help me identify this glassware!

I'm a freshly graduated physics and math teacher moved into a small school from the late 1920s. The equipment here is old and confusing, at the very least. I have found many things which I have ...
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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 shows Professor Dan Shechtman includes some photos of Linus Pauling who never believed in quasicrystals. From the video: ...
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Who came up with the box and arrow diagrams for electron configurations?

In general chemistry texts, the electron configurations are sometimes shown in boxes with up and down arrows to show the concept of paired spins. My impression for years was that Hund used such ...
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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 ...
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When was the symbol for potassium changed from Ka to K?

Wikipedia says that Ka was a symbol for potassium once. Current symbol is K. Name changed due to a standardization of, modernization of, or update to older formerly-used symbol. When was the symbol ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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How does de Broglie actually prove Bohr's postulates?

We know Bohr said that the angular momentum of an electron is an integral multiple of $nh/(2π).$ And in de Broglie's wave equation, he said the circumference of the path of the electron traveling as a ...
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Vital force theory [closed]

What is the vital force theory? The vital force theory of organic compounds was disproved by a scientist Friedrich Wöhler is 1828 as follows: Urea is a organic compound which was thought to be made ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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How were the Hoffman's and the Zaitsev's rule formulated even before the discovery of the electron?

I recently studied Zaitsev's and Hoffman's rules for deciding which product is formed via elimination and noticed that the rules for formulated much before the discovery of electrons and any ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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Why was Avogadro's number chosen to be the value that it is? [closed]

I understand that the mole is an extremely useful way of measuring and understanding atomic quantities. I did find some history of the number in its wikipedia article, but I did not find an answer to ...
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Why are there 3 columns in Group VIII of the Periodic Table?

I'm currently reading in-depth about the layout of the Periodic Table, and I wondered why the table has 3 columns in its Group VIII: As I understand, this is an old notation of the table, now ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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How were silver and gold separated using the salt cementation process?

Gold and silver are often extracted from the same ores and are difficult to separate due to their chemical similarity, which prevents the use of techniques such as cupellation. Acid-based methods were ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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264 views

Origin of the name of barbituric acid

Recently, I have encountered two different accounts explaining the origins of the name "barbituric acid". Both accounts do mention that the name of this compound was given by the famous organic ...
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1answer
71 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 ...
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Pople Basis Set Abnormality: 3rd row 6-311G

I noticed when looking through the Basis set exchange website that the 6-311 Pople basis sets don't at all match their formulation once you go past the 2nd row of the periodic table. For example, ...
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Why is '-ethane' in 'methane'?

Is there a chemical or historical significance in the fact that 'ethane' is just 'methane' without the 'm'?
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Any false chemical element in history of chemistry?

Was there any false chemical element introduced in history of chemistry? I mean a substance that after a while proved that it was not an element.
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Why do some element symbols contain a single letter while others contain two letters?

As the title says, why do some element symbols contain a single letter while others contain two letters?
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Were gold(II) complexes synthesized for the first time in 2017?

Recently in the Google news feed, I discovered this news: Gold stabilized in very rare oxidation state +II Missing golden link found: Divalent gold complex isolated for the first time in a ...
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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 ...
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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 "...
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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?
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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 ...
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Receiving milk for working in harmful environment

I just got a job in a chemical/biological lab (post-Soviet Country). Chemists here receive milk for "harmfulness of the work" (i .e. their work involves working with all kind of substances/reactives). ...
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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)? ...
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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 ...
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313 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?
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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 ...
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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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531 views

How did Mendeleev know elements from compounds or mixtures?

I read that Mendeleev initially thought didymium was an element, but it was actually a mixture. How did he know the rest of the chemicals in the periodic table were elements and not compounds, ...
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How were urolithins discovered and named?

Urolithin is a product of the degradation of ellagic acid by gut flora and has significant biological activity. (Wikipedia) I am curious as to how it was discovered but cannot find the story. Although ...
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How did Millikan measure the mass of these oil droplets?

I was reading the R.A. Millikan's oil drop experiment and the following part confused me: By measuring the rate of fall, Millikan was able to measure the fall of the oil droplets (which were dropped ...