More on Element 43 - Journal of Chemical Education (ACS Publications)

Sep 1, 2005 - Additional comments on a recent article about the history of technetium. Keywords (Domain):. Inorganic Chemistry. Keywords (Feature):. L...
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Letters More on Element 43 In his masterly account of the search for Element 43, “From Masurium to Trinacrium: The Troubled Story of Element 43” (1), Roberto Zingales has detailed in historical context the quest for the long-sought eka-manganese, whose existence had been predicted by Dmitrii Ivanovich Mendeleev as early as 1872. When I was a graduate student at the University of Florida more than half a century ago, one of the unsubstantiated claims for the discovery of this elusive element involved local professor of chemistry Fred Harvey Heath (1883–1952) (2, 3), who had died shortly after I arrived on the Gainesville campus. While at the University of Washington, sometime between 1917 and 1923, Heath and electric engineer J. D. Ross claimed to have prepared compounds of a hitherto unknown element from ores that they had obtained from British Columbia (4, 5). They submitted their results to the Journal of the American Chemical Society, whose editor, Arthur Becket Lamb (1880– 1952) (6), requested X-ray spectra as proof of their discovery. Because at that time the necessary equipment was unavailable to them, their report was not published. Since technetium occurs in only infinitesimal amounts in nature (7) and since Heath and Ross had isolated salts in weighable quantities, it is extremely improbable that the element that they had reported was technetium (element 43). However, it might have been rhenium (element 75), in which case they would still have antedated Noddack, Tacke, and


Journal of Chemical Education

Berg’s discovery (8). On the other hand, because the chemical literature contains many unsubstantiated claims to the discovery of element 43, as Professor Zingales has noted (1), their “substance” might have been a mixture. At any rate, their claim constitutes an interesting and little known footnote in the annals of the history of chemistry. Literature Cited 1. Zingales, R. J. Chem. Educ. 2005, 82, 221–227. 2. Kauffman, G. B. In American Chemists and Chemical Engineers; Miles, W. D., Ed.; American Chemical Society: Washington, DC, 1976; pp 207–208. 3. Kauffman, G. B. In American National Biography; Garraty, J. A., Carnes, M. C., Eds.; Oxford University Press: New York, NY, 1999; Vol. 10, pp 471–472. 4. Kauffman, G. B. Florida Acad. Sci. Quart. J. March 1963, 26 (1), 1–3. 5. Kauffman, G. B. Educ. Chem. July 1993, 30 (4), 94. 6. Kauffman, G. B. Hexagon Spring 2001, 92 (1), 3. 7. Kenna, B. T.; Kuroda, P. K. J. Inorg. Nucl. Chem. 1961, 23, 142. 8. Noddack, W.; Tacke, I.; Berg, O. Naturwiss. 1925, 13, 567. George B. Kauffman Department of Chemistry California State University, Fresno Fresno, CA 93740-8034 [email protected]

Vol. 82 No. 9 September 2005