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Origins of the Element Names_alchemists

Origins of the Element Names_alchemists - Origins of the...

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Origins of the Element Names Substances Known by Alchemists Contents: #47 Ag , #79 Au , #6 C , #29 Cu , #26 Fe , #80 Hg , #82 Pb , #78 Pt , #16 S , #50 Sn The ancient Greeks suspected that there must be basic or elementary substances, but they lacked a procedure to determine which substances were elementary. Empedocles selected earth, water, air and fire because they seem to be found in nearly all materials. For example, water is essential for life, and is typically released when materials are heated. Aristotle adopted Empedocles' four earthly elements (and added a fifth, Æther, as the basis of the apparently different heavenly objects). The ancients knew about many other substances, but because they were less common, they were not considered elementary. The four earthly elements remained part of accepted theory for over 2000 years. The Greek four elements were incorporated into the arts of alchemy. In their search for formulations for producing desirable substances such as gold, alchemists became convinced that precisely measured proportions are essential. Inconsistencies with the expected changes in weight, variations in air produced from diverse source materials, and the realization that vacuums are possible eventually lead to doubts about the four element theory. In his first book Robert Boyle (1627-1691) presented a series of experiments using an air pump (shown behind him at age 37) to create a vacuum. In his second book, Sceptical Chymist (1661) Boyle proposed that an element is certain primitive and simple, or perfectly unmingled bodies; which not being made of any other body, or of one another, are the ingredients of which all those called perfectly mixt bodies are immediately compounded, and into which they are ultimately resolved. A century later Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier (1743-1794) explained the advantages of Boyle's proposal considering elements as those substances which are not further separable. The substance's weight would be the key to determine if a change was due to combination or separation. Adding to a substance would increase weight; removal of a component would reduce weight. This new procedure lead Lavoisier to propose a new
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chemistry with a revised list of elements. The elements below were all known to ancient cultures, but not thought to be "elementary" prior to Lavoisier. Lavoisier was raised by a maiden aunt. His father, a wealthy Parisian lawyer provided the best available education at the Collège Mazarin. He learned chemistry from Rouelle who was renown for following Bourdelain's popular chemistry lectures with demonstrations which often did more to show reality varied with theory. In 1766 Lavoisier accompanied a mineral survey of Alsace and Lorraine and won a prize for his essay analyzing methods for lighting a large city. In 1868, at age 25, he was elected to the
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