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Author: Subject: The element "Damarium" German chemical humor from 1890
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[*] posted on 15-5-2011 at 10:19
The element "Damarium" German chemical humor from 1890

Chemical News
61:217 May 2, 1890
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Our Notes and Queries column was opened for the purpose of giving and obtaining information likely to be of use to our readers generally. We cannot undertake to let this column be the meana of transmitting merely private information, or such trade notice as should legitimately come in the advertisement columns. A Supposed New Gaseous Element.—The Chemiker Zeitung gives an account of a discovery made in Damara Laud which appears to be of profound interest. A mining engineer of the name of Lauor, prospecting for gold, came upon a group of funnel-shaped depressions in a tract of weathered diabase, whilst the ground was elsewhere of a reddish colour (from ferric oxide), in the immediate neighbourhood of these depressions it that of a greenish-grey. There was not a trace of even the lowest vegetation; dried insects and the Remains of antelopes, jackals, and lizards, all displayed a remarkable change of colour. One of the party had in his hat a branch of a shrub, which in a very short time lost its green colour and assumed a violet blue, whilst the beards and hair of the travellers appeared as if powdered over with white- A peculiar odour was perceived, intermediate between musk and mercaptan, and on binding down over the fumaroles a slight humming sound was perceived. Three empty bottles were filled with the gas and forwarded to Dr. Aotsch, a chemist residing at Cape Town. The latter assigns to this gas the provisional name damarium (D). It is capable of decomposing water and taking the place of the hydrogen. Its combination with oxygen, on electrolysis, evolved at the positive pole a volume only one-fourth of that given off at the negative pole. The: latter has exactly half the specific gravity of H, and its oxide has the composition D4H therefore semivalent, or, more correctly, it is the true univalent element of the lowest atomic weight, and must in future be placed at the bottom of our atomic scale. H, CI . . must in future be regarded as bivalent; O, S, &C, as quadrivalent. The stereochemical view of Le Bel and van't Hoff thus receives a severe blow, and the tetrahedric representation " becomes imposable. Damarium is the most powerful of all reducing agents. Platinum, gold, silver, lead, and copper are at once reduced from their solutions in the metallic state; ferric salt are reduced in a moment to ferrous salts, and mercuric chloride is converted in.o calomel. Solution of indigotine is instantly decolourised, and nitrobenzol is converted into aniline. Damarium rapidly separates sulphur from the aqueous solution of SO2 and if passed through dilute sulphuric acid it causes an escape of sulphuretted hydrogen. Dr. Antsch, whs is intending to prosecute the investigation on the receipt of further material, is of opinion that damarium is an element, perhaps widely diffused, but generally occurring in very minute quantities, and hence hitherto overlooked. Its concentrated occurrence in Damara Land analogous to the occurrence of the cerium metals.

Annual report of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution 1898.

A paper read January 11, 1897, before the German Chemical Society at Merlin. Translated from the Revno Srientiuque, fourth series, Vol. VIII, pages 258-262.

The existence of metacerium announced by M. Brauner 2 does not appear as yet absolutely established, neither does that of russium 1 which M. Chruschtschow found associated with thorium in certain zirconiums and in monazite, and whose atomic weight is said to be 220. The jargonium of Sorby, 4 the austrium of Linnemann, 5 as well as the norvegiuin of Dahll, 6 the actinium of Phipson, 7 theidumium of Websky, 3 the masriuui of Richmond and Off, 9 and an unknown element which M. K. J. Bayer thought he had found in French bauxite have vanished into the void.

We will also mention, as curiosities, kosmium and neokosmium, that take their names, not from the kosmos but from Kosmann, 10 who, on the 16th of November, 1890, took out a patent for the preparation of their oxides. If it were not for the expense of the patent, it might have been thought a pleasantry, like that perpetrated a few years ago by the Chemiker Zeitung," that told its readers over the signature of M. Fried. Much, the marvellous history of the discovery of damarium.

The world of chemical processes is like the stage of a theatre on which are exhibited the details of the action of the play, but in this world the characters are represented by elements, each of which plays its part, whether it be a silent or a speaking one. Among the latter may be classed two elements discovered during the last twenty-five years—gallium and germanium.

Volume 11, 1891

We have next to take a glance at an alleged elementary body, said to have been discovered in Damara Land, South Africa, and named hence damarium. Two prospectors observed small jets of a gas issuing from the sand. It proved to be specifically lighter than hydrogen, hitherto the lightest body known, and, as far as could be roughly ascertained, was of a lower atomic weight. I should not have noticed this discovery, had it not been given to the world in a paper of such standing as the " Chemiker Zeitung." If the existence and properties of damarium are verified, it will have to figure in the first line of our tables of atomic weights and to serve in place of hydrogen as the standard of comparison for the specific gravities of gases. It may, perhaps, prove to be identical with "helium," a body which on spectroscopical evidence is believed to exist in the sun.
A discovery, not yet generally accepted, has been made by Professor Kruss, of Munich, and Dr. W. Schmidt. They have found, it is alleged, in the purest nickel and cobalt, from one to three per cent. of a metal which has hitherto escaped detection. This is the more curious as these two metals have been closely scrutinized by Liebig, Woehler, Fresenius, and other chemists of high eminence.

Until very lately an element figured in our text books under the name of didymium. Its properties, and especially its atomic weight, had been determined in certain masterly researches; and it was recognized, according to one of the most familiar definitions of an element, as a "something to which we may add, but from which we can take nothing." But Dr. Auer von Welsbach, on examining this supposed simple body in a manner hitherto untried, was able to resolve it into two simpler bodies, which have received the names neodymium and praseodymium. Still this is not the end of the matter. Later researches, in which the present writer has had a part, show that neodymium and praseodymium are not the simplest bodies into which didymium can be broken up. Another case of this kind is that of Nordenskiold's gadolinium. This body had a fixed atomic weight, yet it has been broken up into yttrium, erbium, and ytterbium. I have found that yttrium consists of five or more constituents, previously unknown, and each of these constituents may prove further divisible if examined in some novel manner. Space does not permit me to develop the lessons of the "rare earths," which promise to throw a new light on the very foundations of our science and on the nature of the elements. In all probability they have been formed by a process of evolution, in which the "survival of the most inert" plays a role similar to that which the "survival of the fittest " is considered to take in biology.

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