Today in Science History – December 26 – Clemens Winkler and Germanium

Clemens Alexander Winkler
Clemens Alexander Winkler (1838 – 1904)

December 26 is Clemens Winkler’s birthday. Winkler was the German chemist who discovered the element germanium.

While working as a professor of chemistry at the Freiberg School of Mines, he was given a sample of a new mineral discovered by a fellow professor named Albin Weisbach. Weisbach found a new mineral in the nearby silver mine which he called argyrodite. Weisbach’s initial analysis showed argyrodite was made up of silver, sulfur and a small amount of mercury. Mercury had never been found in the silver mine before so he passed the mineral to Winkler for further study. Winkler confirmed Weisbach’s findings for the silver, sulfur, and mercury but these elements only accounted for 94% of the mineral’s mass. He attempted to separate and identify the remaining 6%. Once he accomplished the separation he discovered it was a new unique element. In addition to being new, it had many of the same chemical properties predicted by the unknown element listed as ekasilicon on Mendeleev’s periodic table.

The discovery of germanium and its placement in the periodic table was the first unknown element found on Mendeleev’s periodic table. This was an important part of accepting the theory of periodicity of the elements.

Notable Science History Events for December 26

2004 – James Francis “Frank” Pantridge died.

Frank Pantridge
Frank Pantridge (1916-2004) Inventor of the portable defibrillator.

Pantridge was an Irish cardiologist who invented the portable defibrillator. He discovered approximately half of the men under the age of 65 who had a heart attack died within the first hour of their attack and of those, most suffered ventricular fibrillation. He built and installed his first device in an ambulance and greatly improved the survivability of heart attacks. The defibrillator was quickly adopted by emergency services around the world.

Read more about Frank Pantridge on October 3 in Science History.

1838 – Clemens Alexander Winkler was born.

1825 – Felix Hoppe-Seyler was born.

Felix Hoppe-Seyler
Felix Hoppe-Seyler (1825 – 1895)

Hoppe-Seyler was a German chemist who was a pioneer of biochemistry and molecular biology. He investigated fluids of the body such as blood, hemoglobin, pus, bile, milk, and urine. He was the first to crystallize hemoglobin and observe its absorption spectrum.