ERIC Number: EJ1108755
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2016-Sep
Abstractor: As Provided
Eight Sages over Five Centuries Share Oxygen's Discovery
Severinghaus, John W.
Advances in Physiology Education, v40 n3 p370-376 Sep 2016
During the last century, historians have discovered that between the 13th and 18th centuries, at least six sages discovered that the air we breathe contains something that we need and use. Ibn al-Nafis (1213-1288) in Cairo and Michael Servetus (1511-1553) in France accurately described the pulmonary circulation and its effect on blood color. Michael Sendivogius (1566-1636) in Poland called a part of air "the food of life" and identified it as the gas made by heating saltpetre. John Mayow (1641-1679) in Oxford found that one-fifth of air was a special gas he called "spiritus nitro aereus." Carl Wilhelm Scheele (1742-1786) in Uppsala generated a gas he named "fire air" by heating several metal calcs. He asked Lavoisier how it fit the phlogiston theory. Lavoisier never answered. In 1744, Joseph Priestley (1733-1804) in England discovered how to make part of air by heating red calc of mercury. He found it brightened a flame and supported life in a mouse in a sealed bottle. He called it "dephlogisticated air." He published and personally told Lavoisier and other chemists about it. Lavoisier never thanked him. After 9 years of generating and studying its chemistry, he couldn't understand whether it was a new element. He still named it "principe oxigene." He was still not able to disprove phlogiston. Henry Cavendish (1731-1810) made an inflammable gas in 1766. He and Priestley noted that its flame made a dew. Cavendish proved the dew was pure water and published this in 1778, but all scientists called it impossible to make water, an element. In 1783, on June 24th, Lavoisier was urged to try it, and, when water appeared, he realized that water was not an element but a compound of two gases, proving that oxygen was an element. He then demolished phlogiston and began the new chemistry revolution.
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