Vanadium: historical information

  • Discoveror: Andres Manuel del Rio and Nils Sefström
  • Place of discovery: Mexico and Sweden
  • Date of discovery: 1801
  • Origin of name : named after "Vanadis", the goddess of beauty in Scandinavian mythology.

The discovery of vanadium happened "twice". The discovery of vanadium was claimed first by Andres Manuel del Rio (a Spanish mineralogist) at Mexico City in 1803. He prepared a number of salts from a material contained in "brown lead" (now called vanadite, from a mine near Hidalgo in Northern Mexico). He found the colours reminiscent of those shown by chromium, so he called the element panchromium ("something which can take or have any colour"). He later renamed the element erythronium ("red") after noting that most of these salts turned red upon heating. It seems he withdrew his claim after a Frenchman, Collett-Desotils, disputed his claim, and it was only 30 years later that it was shown that del Rio's work was, in fact, correct.

Iin 1831, Nils Gabriel Sefström (a Swedish chemist) was working with some iron ores and was able to isolate a new oxide. This lead to the element being named in honour of the Northern-Germanic tribes' goddess Vanadis (Vanadis, a by-name of Freya referring to beauty and fertility) because of its beautiful multicoloured compounds. In the same year, Friedrich Wöhler came in to possession of del Rio's "brown lead" and confirmed del Rio's discovery of vanadium, although the name vanadium still stands rather than del Rio's suggestion of erythronium.

Metallic vanadium was not made until 1867 when Henry Enfield Roscoe reduced vandium chloride (VCl3) with hydrogen gas to give vanadium metal and HCl.

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