Nature Chemistry | The Sceptical Chymist

Element of the month: Selenium stories

It was while making sulfuric acid that Jöns Jacob Berzelius — ‘the father of Swedish chemistry’ — noticed a red residue which he first took for tellurium, as Russell Boyd from Dalhousie University notes in this month’s ‘in your element’ article (subscription required). A more meticulous investigation, however, revealed that the residue displayed different properties, resembling those of sulfur. The new element fell into place between tellurium and sulfur in the chalcogen family of the periodic table, and Berzelius named it selenium (after the Greek word for Moon) owing to its similarity with tellurium (named after the Latin word for Earth). 


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