Questions tagged [history-of-chemistry]

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

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15 votes
3 answers
2k views

When did the atom theory become indisputable?

We know that the Greeks were the first scientists (or better, philosophers) to introduce the idea that matter is made up of little “chunks”, and they named these chunks “atoms”. This idea that matter ...
32 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'?
10 votes
1 answer
365 views

What "physical method" does Feynman refer to in The Feynman Lectures on Physics (Vol 1)

In the introductory chapter, Atoms in Motion, of the Feynman Lectures on Physics (Volume One), Feynman alludes to a certain "physical method", which can be used to determine the structure of ...
2 votes
2 answers
133 views

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 ...
5 votes
1 answer
414 views

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 ...
-1 votes
2 answers
120 views

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 ...
2 votes
0 answers
150 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. ...
0 votes
0 answers
51 views

Creating sodium tetraborate decahydrate from boric acid

I would like to obtain sodium tetraborate decahydrate (borax) from boric acid (note not the other way around that is answered here: Creating Boric Acid from Borax and Hydrochloric Acid) Perhaps use ...
0 votes
0 answers
60 views

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 ...
3 votes
2 answers
119 views

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 ...
4 votes
3 answers
1k views

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 ...
1 vote
0 answers
35 views

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 "...
23 votes
11 answers
3k views

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 ...
5 votes
1 answer
313 views

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 ...
4 votes
0 answers
133 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 ...
5 votes
1 answer
2k views

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 ...
8 votes
1 answer
429 views

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 ...
1 vote
2 answers
243 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 ...
6 votes
2 answers
2k views

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 ...
-2 votes
1 answer
383 views

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 ...
2 votes
0 answers
139 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 ...
2 votes
0 answers
109 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 ...
4 votes
1 answer
191 views

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 ...
1 vote
1 answer
74 views

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 ...
1 vote
1 answer
73 views

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 ...
2 votes
2 answers
168 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 ...
5 votes
1 answer
127 views

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 ...
20 votes
4 answers
6k views

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 ...
10 votes
1 answer
8k views

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 ...
3 votes
4 answers
1k views

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 ...
16 votes
3 answers
589 views

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 ...
6 votes
1 answer
1k views

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 ...
-2 votes
1 answer
68 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 ...
0 votes
0 answers
25 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 ...
9 votes
1 answer
622 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 ...
1 vote
1 answer
64 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 ...
1 vote
0 answers
47 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 ...
5 votes
1 answer
272 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 ...
1 vote
1 answer
75 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 ...
8 votes
1 answer
401 views

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, ...
18 votes
3 answers
892 views

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.
13 votes
1 answer
6k views

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?
10 votes
1 answer
360 views

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 ...
1 vote
1 answer
40 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 ...
1 vote
1 answer
75 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 "...
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?
2 votes
1 answer
266 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 ...
14 votes
1 answer
6k views

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). ...
10 votes
2 answers
1k 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)? ...
1 vote
2 answers
168 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 ...