Category Archives: chemistry

Elemental places

A surprising number of chemical elements are named for places. (Well, it surprised me, anyway.) Many of the elements that have been identified since the late 18th century are named for their places of discovery. Would you have guessed that more of these elements are named for Scandinavia or Scandinavian cities than for any other geographical location? One… Read More »

The Magnetes legacy

Somewhere in Colleen McCullough’s Masters of Rome series of novels, I ran across a reference to a city called Magnesia. For some reason, those old names tend to start running around in my head whenever I encounter them, creating a pleasing atmosphere of mystery and antiquity (Illyricum, Cappadocia, Thrace, Ephesus…). However, when “Magnesia” starts running through my mind,… Read More »

Brimstone, vitriol, and strong water

If you enjoy reading about history or reading old books—histories, books about science, even novels—you’ve probably encountered some of the wonderful old chemical terms that were in use before our current chemical notation was developed. Here are a few of my favorites: Aqua fortis and aqua regia: Two powerful acids, nitric acid and a mixture of nitric and… Read More »