Platinum: historical information

  • Discoveror: Antonio de Ulloa
  • Place of discovery: South America
  • Date of discovery: 1735
  • Origin of name : from the Spanish word "platina" meaning "silver".

The metal was used by pre-Columbian Indians but platinum was "rediscovered" in South America by Ulloa in 1735 and by Wood in 1741. In 1822 plenty of platinum was discovered in the Ural Mountains in Russia.

Platinum is one of the elements which has an alchemical symbol, shown below (right, {{floatR}}alchemical symbol of platinum{{/floatR}} alchemy is an ancient pursuit concerned with, for instance, the transformation of other metals into gold).

Sometime prior to the autumn of 1803, the Englishman John Dalton was able to explain the results of some of his studies by assuming that matter is composed of atoms and that all samples of any given compound consist of the same combination of these atoms. Dalton also noted that in series of compounds, the ratios of the masses of the second element that combine with a given weight of the first element can be reduced to small whole numbers (the law of multiple proportions). This was further evidence for atoms. Dalton's theory of atoms was published by Thomas Thomson in the 3rd edition of his System of Chemistry in 1807 and in a paper about strontium oxalates published in the Philosophical Transactions. Dalton published these ideas himself in the following year in the New System of Chemical Philosophy. The symbol used by Dalton for platinum is shown below. [See History of Chemistry, Sir Edward Thorpe, volume 1, Watts & Co, London, 1914.]

Dalton's symbol for platinum

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