Saturday, 18 July 2009
Bromine Stinks, of course
My wife was reading something from William James that sent me running to the dictionary. He used the term "fuliginous mist", and I had no clue about its meaning. The definition (in case you didn't know either) is :""Fuliginous" is a word with a dark and dirty past -- it derives from
"fuligo," the Latin word for "soot." In an early sense (now obsolete),
"fuliginous" was used to describe noxious bodily vapors once thought to be
produced by organic processes. The 'sooty' sense, which English speakers have
been using since the early 1620s, can be used to describe everything from dense
fogs and malevolent clouds to overworked chimney sweeps. "
It reminded me of something I read recently about the discovery of Bromine
I Came across this on Elementymology & Elements Multidict by Peter van der Krogtl, and couldn't resist posting...
Bromine was discovered by two scientists working independently.
Antoine-Jérôme Balard (1802-1876), who was working in a pharmacy school in Montpellier, studying the brown seaweed Fucus, at that time Iodine was manufactured from ash of calcinated Fucus. Balard isolated a new substance. At first he thought that it was a Chlorine or Iodine compound. As he could not isolate the compound, he suggested to have found a new chemical element. Balard suggested the name muride, from the Latin word "muria" for brine.
The French Academy of Science, in turn, proposed the name brome from the Greek word bromos meaning stench (note) to indicate its strong irritating odor. In English the suffix -ine was added, since this suffix was previously used for other halogens
Almost simultaneously, in the Autumn of 1825, student Carl Löwig (1803-1890) took a bottle of a reddish liquid with an unpleasant smell to the Laboratory of Medicine and Chemistry of Prof. Leopold Gmelin (1788-1853), at the University of Heidelberg. Löwig told Gmelin that the liquid, of mineral origin, resulted from the treatment with gaseous Chlorine, thus explaining the red color. Gmelin realized that this was an unknown substance and encouraged Löwig to produce more of it so they could study it in detail. Unfortunately, winter exams and the holidays delayed Löwig's work too long. In the mean time, in 1826, Balard published his paper describing the new element.
The Japanese name has the same meaning. For the writing they use the two Chinese characters 臭 shuu kyuu = smell, stink, emit foul odor, and 素 "so" (elementary, principle, naked, or uncovered).