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Electropaedia - Discovery of the Elements - Timeline

 

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Around 350 BC, Aristotle theorised that there were only four elements; earth, air, fire and water. Until the middle ages the rate of identification of new chemical elements remained at about one every thousand years. Curiosity was then at last aroused by the alchemists in their attempts to convert various materials into gold and by the end of the nineteenth century, chemists had discovered almost all the elements, at least the stable ones. In the twentieth century the quest was taken up by physicists and the focus turned to the discovery of sub-atomic particles.

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See also the Battery Timeline and the Hall of Fame for a more comprehensive history of technology.

 

Date

Element

Symbol

Atomic Number

Discoverer

Location / Comments

Antiquity

Carbon

C

6

Unknown

 

Antiquity

Copper

Cu

29

Chaldeans (Iraq) (10,000 BC)

 

Antiquity

Sulphur

S

16

Greeks

 

C.5000 BC

Gold

Au

79

Egyptians

 

C.5000 BC

Silver

Ag

47

Chaldeans (Iraq), Greeks

 

C.2500 BC

Iron

Fe

26

Egyptians, Hittites (Turkey)

 

C.2100 BC

Tin

Sn

50

Egyptians, Incas

 

C.1600 BC

Antimony

Sb

51

Egyptians, Chaldeans

 

C.1500 BC

Mercury

Hg

80

Egyptians, Chinese, Greeks

 

C.1000 BC

Lead

Pb

82

Egyptians

 

C.0 BC/AD

Zinc

Zn

30

Romans

 

Paracelsus (German alchemist and physician)

Identified as a metal in 1526

Inactivity

C.1250 AD

Arsenic

As

33

Albertus Magnus

German monk

C.1500 AD

Bismuth

Bi

83

Basil Valentinus

German monk

Described in 1500

Claude François Geoffroy

French chemist

Identified in 1753

1669 AD

Phosphorus

P

15

Henning Brand

German alchemist

Pre 1700

Platinum

Pt

78

South American Indians

 

Antonio de Ulloa

Spanish explorer and administrator

Identified in 1741

Charles Wood

British chemist

Identified in 1741

1735

Cobalt

Co

27

Georg Brandt

Swedish chemist & mineralogist

1751

Nickel

Ni

28

Axel Fredrik Cronstedt

Swedish chemist & mineralogist

1755

Magnesium

Mg

12

Joseph Black

Scottish physicist & chemist

1766

Hydrogen

H

1

Henry Cavendish

English aristocrat

1772

Nitrogen

N

7

Daniel Rutherford

Scottish chemist & physician

1772/4

Oxygen

O

8

Karl Wilhelm Scheele

Swedish chemist at Uppsala University

Joseph Priestley

English chemist & philosopher

1774

Chlorine

Cl

17

Scheele

 

1774

Manganese

Mn

25

Johann Gottlieb Gahn

Swedish chemist

1780

Chromium

Cr

24

Louis-Nicholas Vauquelin

French pharmacist

1781

Molybdenum

Mo

42

Peter Hjelm

Swedish chemist

1783

Tellurium

Te

52

Franz Müller von Reichenstein

Hungarian mineralogist

1783

Tungsten

W

74

Juan & Fausto Elhuyar

Spanish chemists & mineralogists

1787

Strontium

Sr

38

Adair Crawford

Scottish physician

Discovery 1787

Thomas Charles Hope

Identified 1791in Edinburgh

Davy

Isolated 1808

1789

Zirconium

Zr

40

Martin Heinrich Klaproth

German chemist & mineralogist

1789

Uranium

U

92

Klaproth

Discovered Uranium oxide

(Assumed to be the element)

Eugène Péligot

French chemist

Isolated the element in 1841

1791

Titanium

Ti

22

William Gregor

English vicar

Klaproth

Identified in 1795

1794

Yttrium

Y

39

Johan Gadolin

Finnish chemist & mineralogist

1797

Beryllium

Be

4

Vauquelin

French mineralogist

Discovered 1797

Friedrich Wöhler

German chemist

Isolated 1828 in Berlin

Antoine-Alexander-Brutus Bussy

French chemist

Isolated 1828 in Paris

1801

Vanadium

V

23

Andrés Manuel del Rio

Spanish-born Mexican scientist & naturalist

Mexican College of Mines

Initilly named Panchromium

Later named Erythronium

Hippolyte-Victor Collet-Descotils

Baron Alexander von Humboldt

 

French chemist supportrd by Prussiian noble, challenged del Rio's claim in 1805. Said to be Chromium

Nils Gabriel Sefström

Rediscovered in 1831 and named Vanadium by Swedish chemist

1801

Niobium

Nb

41

Charles Hatchett

English chemist

1802

Tantalum

Ta

73

Anders Gustaf Ekeberg

Swedish chemist

1803

Rhodium

Rh

45

William Hyde Wollaston

English chemist & physician

Cambridge

1803

Palladium

Pd

46

Wollaston

 

1803

Osmium

Os

76

Smithson Tennant

English chemist

Cambridge

1803

Indium

In

77

Tennant

 

1803

Cerium

Ce

58

Jöns Jacob Berzelius & Wilhelm Hisinger

Swedish chemist & Swedish geologist

At Uppsala University

1807

Potassium

K

19

Humphry Davy

English chemist & physicist

1807

Sodium

Na

11

Davy

 

1808

Boron

B

5

Louis-Josef Gay-Lussac & Louis-Jacques Thenard

French chemists

Davy

 

1808

Calcium

Ca

20

Davy

 

1808

Ruthenium

Ru

44

Jedrzej Andrei Sniadecki

Polish chemist

Discovered 1808 at Vilno (not confirmed)

Karl Klaus

Russian chemist

Isolated 1844 at Kazan State University

1808

Barium

Ba

56

Davy

 

1811

Iodine

I

53

Bernard Courtois

French chemist

1815

Thorium

Th

90

Berzelius

 

1817

Lithium

Li

3

Johan August Arfvedson

Swedish chemist

Uppsala

1817

Selenium

Se

34

Berzelius

 

1817

Cadmium

Cd

48

Friedrich Strohmeyer

German chemist

Karl Samuel Leberecht Hermann

German chemist

1824

Silicon

Si

14

Berzelius

 

1825

Aluminium

Al

13

Hans Christian Øersted

Danish physicist

Copenhagen

1825/6

Bromine

Br

35

Carl Löwig

Heidelberg, Germany

Antoine-Jérôme Balard

Montpelier, France

1839

Lanthanum

La

57

Carl Mosander

Swedish chemist & mineralogist

1842

Erbium

Er

68

Mosander

 

1843

Terbium

Tb

65

Mosander

 

1860

Caesium

Cs

55

Robert Bunsen & Gustav Kirchhoff

German chemists & German physicist at Heidelberg University

1861

Rubidium

Rb

37

Bunsen & Kirchhoff

 

1861

Thallium

Tl

81

William Crookes

English chemist

London

1863

Induim

In

77

Ferdinand Reich & Hieronymus Richter

German chemists

1868

Helium

He

2

Pierre Jules César Janssen

French astronomer

Joseph Norman Lockyer

English astronomer

1869 Periodic Table of the Elements proposed independently by Meyer and Mendeleyev.   (See a modern example of the Periodic Table)

1871

Gallium

Ga

31

Dmitriy Ivanovich Mendeleyev

Russian chemist

Predicted 1871

Paul Émile Lecoq de Boisbaudran

French chemist

Discovered 1875

1871

Scandium

Sc

21

Mendeleyev

Predicted 1871

Lars Nilson

Swedish chemist

Discovered 1879

1871

Germanium

Ge

32

Mendeleyev

Predicted 1871

Clemens Winkler

German chemist

Discovered 1886

Freiburg University

1871

Protactinium

Pa

91

Mendeleyev

Predicted 1871

Kasimir Fajans & Otto Göhring

Karlsruhe, Germany 1913

Otto Hahn & Lise Meitner

Kaiser-Wilhem Institute, Berlin 1918

Frederick Soddy, John Cranston & Andrew Fleck

Glasgow, Scotland 1918

1878

Holmium

Ho

67

Per Teodor Cleve

Swedish chemist

Uppsala

Marc Delafontaine & Jacques-Louis Soret

Swiss chemists

Geneva

1878

Ytterbium

Yb

70

Jean Charles Galissard de Marignac

Swiss chemist

Geneva

1879

Samarium

Sm

62

de Boisbaudran

 

1879

Thulium

Tm

69

Cleve

 

1880

Gadolinium

Gd

64

de Marignac

 

1885

Praseodymium

Pr

59

Carl Auer Freiherr von Welsbach

Austrian scientist & inventor

1885

Neodymium

Nd

60

von Welsbach

 

1886

Fluorine

F

9

Joseph Henri Moissan

French chemist

Paris

1886

Dysprosium

Dy

66

de Boisbaudran

 

1894

Argon

Ar

18

John William Strutt (Lord Rayleigh) & William Ramsay

English physicist & Scottish chemist

Cambridge & UC London

1895

Helium

He

2

Ramsay

University College London

1898

Krypton

Kr

36

Ramsay & Morris William Travers

Scottish & English chemists

UC London

1898

Neon

Ne

10

Ramsay & Travers

UC London

1898

Xenon

Xe

54

Ramsay & Travers

UC London

1898

Polonium

Po

84

Marie Curie

Polish-French physicist & chemist

Sorbonne, Paris

1898

Radium

Ra

88

Marie & Pierre Curie

 

1899

Actinium

Ac

89

André Debierne

French chemist

Paris

1900

Radon

Rn

86

Friedrich Ernst Dorn

German physicist

Halle University

1901

Europium

Eu

63

Eugène Anatole Demarçay

French chemist

1907

Lutetium

Lu

71

Georges Urbain

French chemist

Sorbonne, Paris

Charles James

English chemist

University of New Hampshire, USA

Karl Auer

Austrian chemist

Germany

1923

Hafnium

Hf

72

Dirk Coster & György Hevesey

Danish and Hungarian chemists

University of Copenhagen

1925

Rhenium

Re

75

Walter Noddack, Ida Tacke & Otto Carl Berg

Berlin, Germany

1925

Technetium (Masurium)

Tc

43

Noddack, Tacke & Berg

Berlin, Germany

1938

Promethium

Pm

61

H. B. Law, J. D. Pool, Kurbatov & L. L. Quill

(Claimed 1938)

Ohio State University

J.A. Marinsky, L.E. Glendenin, Charles D. Coryell

(Proved 1945)

Oak Ridge Labs, Tennessee

1939

Francium

Fr

87

Marguerite Perey

Curie Institute, Paris

1940

Astatine

At

85

Dale R. Corson, K. R. Mackenzie & Emilio Segré (Italian)

University of California

The following elements with atomic numbers greater than 92 (Uranium) are known as the Transuranium Elements. They are all radioactive and apart from Neptunium and Plutonium, none of them occur naturally on earth having half-lives much shorter than the age of the earth.

1940

Neptunium

Np

93

Edwin M. McMillan & Philip H. Abelson

Berkeley, California

1940

Plutonium

Pu

94

Glenn T. Seaborg, Arthur C. Wahl, Joseph W. Kennedy, Michael Cefola & McMillan

Lawrence Radiation Labs (LRL), University of California, Berkeley

1944

Curium

Cm

96

Seaborg, Ralph A. James & Albert Ghiorso

LRL, Berkeley

1944

Americium

Am

95

Seaborg, Leon O. Morgan et al.

Argonne National Lab, Chicago

1949

Berkelium

Bk

97

Ghiorso, Seaborg, Stanley G. Thompson & Kenneth Street

LRL, Berkeley

1950

Californium

Cf

98

Ghiorso, Seaborg et al.

LRL, Berkeley

1952

Einsteinium

Es

99

Ghiorso et al.

LRL, Berkeley

G. R. Choppin et al.

Los Aamos National Lab

1952

Fermium

Fm

100

Ghiorso with a large team

LRL, Berkeley, jointly with Argonne National Lab and Los Alamos National Lab

The following elements with atomic numbers greater than 100 are known as the Transfermium Elements. They have very short half-lives, sometimes as short as fractions of a second and in many cases only a few atoms have been made.

1955

Mendelevium

Md

101

Ghiorso, Bernard Harvey et al.

LRL, Berkeley

1956

Nobelium

No

102

Joint Institute for Nuclear Research (JINR) team

JNIR, Dubna, USSR 1956

Ghiorso, Seaborg, John R. Walton &Torbjørn Sikkeland

LRL, Berkeley 1958

1961

Lawrencium

Lr

103

Ghiorso, Almon Larsh, Robert M. Latimer et al.

LRL, Berkeley

1964

Rutherfordium

Rf

104

György Flerov et al.

JNIR, Dubna, USSR

Ghiorso et al.

LRL, Berkeley

1967

Dubnium

Db

105

Flerov et al.

JNIR, Dubna, USSR 1967

Ghiorso et al.

LRL, Berkeley 1969

1974

Seaborgium

Sg

106

Flerov,Yuri Organessian et al.

JNIR, Dubna, USSR

Ghiorso et al.

LRL, Berkeley

1976

Bohrium

Bh

107

Organessian et al.

JNIR, Dubna, USSR 1976

Peter Armbruster, Gottfried Münzenberg et al.

GSI Labs, Darmstadt, Germany 1981

1982

Meitnerium

Mt

109

Armbruster, Münzenberg et al.

GSI Labs, Darmstadt, Germany

1984

Hassium

Hs

108

Armbruster, Münzenberg et al.

GSI Labs, Darmstadt, Germany

1994

Darmstadtium

Ds

110

Armbruster, Jorge Rigol et al.

GSI Labs, Darmstadt, Germany

1994

Roentgenium

Rg

111

Armbruster et al.

Place-holder name

GSI Labs, Darmstadt, Germany

1996

Copernicum

Cn

112

Armbruster, Sigurd Hofmann et al.

GSI Labs, Darmstadt, Germany

1998

Flerovium

Fl

114

Organessian, Vladimir Utyonkov et al.

JNIR

Kenton Moody et al.

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), California

2001

Livermorium

Lv

116

Organessian, Utyonkov, Moody et al.

 

Joint JNIR & LLNL teams

2004

Ununtrium

Uut

113

Organessian et al.

Place-holder name

Joint JNIR & LLNL teams

2004

Ununpentium

Uup

115

Organessian et al.

Place-holder name

Joint JNIR & LLNL teams

2006

Ununoctium

Uuo

118

Organessian et al.

Place-holder name

Joint JNIR & LLNL teams

2010

Ununseptium

Uus

117

Organessian, Jim Roberto et al.

Place-holder name

Joint ONRL, LLNL, JNIR teams

 

Ununennium

Uue

119

Robert Smolanczuk (Predicted)

Place-holder name

 

 

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