Friday, May 3, 2013


So, we've all heard of hydrogen.  First element on the periodic table.  Simplest atom with one electron orbiting one proton.  Logical symbol of "H" for the element.  I do have some vague memory (well, I only remember it because I spilled acid all over my hands - there's a reason I'm not a chemist) of making hydrogen gas in chemistry lab in college by pouring sulfuric acid on metallic zinc (H2SO4 + Zn => ZnSO4 + H2) but I never thought much about the name.
Anyway, I was reading a book the other day and it was talking about early experiments in chemistry.  Back in the mid-1700s, it was discovered that you can produce "flammable air" (hydrogen is flammable - think of the Hindenburg) by reacting metal filings (they used iron) with acids.  Furthermore, this "flammable air" produced water when burned in air (2H2 + O2 => 2H2O).  The famous French chemist Antoine Lavoisier (1743-1794) named the gas hydrogen from the Greek words ὕδρω (hydro) meaning "water" and γενῆς (genes) meaning "creator" since it formed water (more trivia - Lavoisier was guillotined during the French Revolution for political reasons at the age of 50 - a waste of a great mind).
Hydrogen is a "water former" when you burn it in oxygen.  Obvious and it makes sense.  Just never thought about it before.  I have no idea why it interests me to learn little bits of trivia like this, but it does.  Guess I'm strange.

1 comment:

  1. My favorite symbol is Hg, mercury. Symbol comes from classic name, "hydrargentem," or water silver.