of elements, and also the hitherto accepted explanations of various celestial phenomena—the source of solar energy and the appearances of the tails of comets—may require recasting.
In the same year as Klaproth detected uranium, he also isolated zirconia or zirconium oxide from the mineral variously known as zircon, hyacinth, jacynth and jargoon; but he failed to obtain the metal, this being first accomplished some years later by Berzelius, who decomposed the double potassium zirconium fluoride with potassium. In the following year, 1795, Klaproth announced the discovery of a third new element, titanium; its isolation (in a very impure form), as in the case of zirconium, was reserved for Berzelius.
Passing over the discovery of carbon disulphide by W. A. Lampadius in 1796, of chromium by L. N. Vauquelin in 1797, and Klaproth’s investigation of tellurium in 1798, the next important series of observations was concerned with platinum and the allied metals. Platinum had been described by Antonio de Ulloa in 1748, and subsequently discussed by H. T. Scheffer in 1752. In 1803 W. H. Wollaston discovered palladium, especially interesting for its striking property of absorbing (“occluding”) as much as 376 volumes of hydrogen at ordinary temperatures, and 643 volumes at 90°. In the following year he discovered rhodium; and at about the same time Smithson Tennant added two more to the list—iridium and osmium; the former was so named from the changing tints of its oxides (ῒρις, rainbow), and the latter from the odour of its oxide (ὀσμή, smell). The most recently discovered “platinum metal,” ruthenium, was recognized by C. E. Claus in 1845. The great number and striking character of the compounds of this group of metals have formed the subject of many investigations, and already there is a most voluminous literature. Berzelius was an early worker in this field; he was succeeded by Bunsen, and Deville and Debray, who worked out the separation of rhodium; and at a later date by P. T. Cleve, the first to make a really thorough study of these elements and their compounds. Of especial note are the curious compounds formed by the union of carbon monoxide with platinous chloride, discovered by Paul Schützenberger and subsequently investigated by F. B. Mylius and F. Foerster and by Pullinger; the phosphoplatinic compounds formed primarily from platinum and phosphorus pentachloride; and also the “ammino” compounds, formed by the union of ammonia with the chloride, &c., of these metals, which have been studied by many chemists, especially S. M. Jörgensen. Considerable uncertainty existed as to the atomic weights of these metals, the values obtained by Berzelius being doubtful. K. F. O. Seubert redetermined this constant for platinum, osmium and iridium; E. H. Keiser for palladium, and A. A. Joly for ruthenium.
The beginning of the 19th century witnessed the discovery of certain powerful methods for the analysis of compounds and the isolation of elements. Berzelius’s investigation of the action of the electric current on salts clearly demonstrated the invaluable assistance that electrolysis could render to the isolator of elements; and the adoption of this method by Sir Humphry Davy for the analysis of the hydrates of the metals of the alkalis and alkaline earths, and the results which he thus achieved, established its potency. In 1808 Davy isolated sodium and potassium; he then turned his attention to the preparation of metallic calcium, barium, strontium and magnesium. Here he met with greater difficulty, and it is to be questioned whether he obtained any of these metals even in an approximately pure form (see Electrometallurgy). The discovery of boron by Gay Lussac and Davy in 1809 led Berzelius to investigate silica (silex). In the following year he announced that silica was the oxide of a hitherto unrecognized element, which he named silicium, considering it to be a metal. This has proved to be erroneous; it is non-metallic in character, and its name was altered to silicon, from analogy with carbon and boron. At the same time Berzelius obtained the element, in an impure condition, by fusing silica with charcoal and iron in a blast furnace; its preparation in a pure condition he first accomplished in 1823, when he invented the method of heating double potassium fluorides with metallic potassium. The success which attended his experiments in the case of silicon led him to apply it to the isolation of other elements. In 1824 he obtained zirconium from potassium zirconium fluoride; the preparation of (impure) titanium quickly followed, and in 1828 he obtained thorium. A similar process, and equally efficacious, was introduced by F. Wöhler in 1827. It consisted in heating metallic chlorides with potassium, and was first applied to aluminium, which was isolated in 1827; in the following year, beryllium chloride was analysed by the same method, beryllium oxide (berylla or glucina) having been known since 1798, when it was detected by L. N. Vauquelin in the gem-stone beryl.
In 1812 B. Courtois isolated the element iodine from “kelp,” the burnt ashes of marine plants. The chemical analogy of this substance to chlorine was quickly perceived, especially after its investigation by Davy and Gay Lussac. Cyanogen, a compound which in combination behaved very similarly to chlorine and iodine, was isolated in 1815 by Gay Lussac. This discovery of the first of the then-styled “compound radicals” exerted great influence on the prevailing views of chemical composition. Hydrochloric acid was carefully investigated at about this time by Davy, Faraday and Gay Lussac, its composition and the elementary nature of chlorine being thereby established.
In 1817 F. Stromeyer detected a new metallic element, cadmium, in certain zinc ores; it was rediscovered at subsequent dates by other observers and its chemical resemblance to zinc noticed. In the same year Berzelius discovered selenium in a deposit from sulphuric acid chambers, his masterly investigation including a study of the hydride, oxides and other compounds. Selenic acid was discovered by E. Mitscherlich, who also observed the similarity of the crystallographic characters of selenates and sulphates, which afforded valuable corroboration of his doctrine of isomorphism. More recent and elaborate investigations in this direction by A. E. H. Tutton have confirmed this view.
In 1818 L. J. Thénard discovered hydrogen dioxide, one of the most interesting inorganic compounds known, which has since been carefully investigated by H. E. Schöne, M. Traube, Wolfenstein and others. About the same time, J. A. Arfvedson, a pupil of Berzelius, detected a new element, which he named lithium, in various minerals—notably petalite. Although unable to isolate the metal, he recognized its analogy to sodium and potassium; this was confirmed by R. Bunsen and A. Matthiessen in 1855, who obtained the metal by electrolysis and thoroughly examined it and its compounds. Its crimson flame-coloration was observed by C. G. Gmelin in 1818.
The discovery of bromine in 1826 by A. J. Balard completed for many years Berzelius’s group of “halogen” elements; the remaining member, fluorine, notwithstanding many attempts, remained unisolated until 1886, when Henri Moissan obtained it by the electrolysis of potassium fluoride dissolved in hydrofluoric acid. Hydrobromic and hydriodic acids were investigated by Gay Lussac and Balard, while hydrofluoric acid received considerable attention at the hands of Gay Lussac, Thénard and Berzelius. We may, in fact, consider that the descriptive study of the various halogen compounds dates from about this time. Balard discovered chlorine monoxide in 1834, investigating its properties and reactions; and his observations on hypochlorous acid and hypochlorites led him to conclude that “bleaching-powder” or “chloride of lime” was a compound or mixture in equimolecular proportions of calcium chloride and hypochlorite, with a little calcium hydrate. Gay Lussac investigated chloric acid; Stadion discovered perchloric acid, since more fully studied by G. S. Serullas and Roscoe; Davy and Stadion investigated chlorine peroxide, formed by treating potassium chlorate with sulphuric acid. Davy also described and partially investigated the gas, named by him “euchlorine,” obtained by heating potassium chlorate with hydrochloric acid; this gas has been more recently examined by Pebal. The oxy-acids of iodine were investigated by Davy and H. G. Magnus; periodic acid, discovered by the latter, is characterized by the striking complexity of its salts as pointed out by Kimmins.