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Who Discovered Nitrogen

Nitrogen is a chemical element with the symbol N and has an atomic number of 7. Nitrogen is a very important element for organisms and in industry. Nitrogen is a very important part of amino acids and nucleic acids (DNA and RNA). But who discovered nitrogen? This article will answer just that question and also look at four interesting facts about nitrogen.

Who Discovered Nitrogen
Nitrogen was discovered by David Rutherford in 1772. He called it noxious air or fixed air. By the late 18th century, most chemists knew of this fraction of air (nitrogen with some other gases) that did not combust. A few years after 1772, nitrogen was also studied by Carl Wilhelm Scheele, Henry Cavendish, and Joseph Priestley. They referred to it as burnt air or phlogisticated air. Through various studies it was shown that animals suffocated in nitrogen. We now know that this is because animals breathe oxygen and will suffocate if there is no oxygen.

Compounds of nitrogen were known in the Middle Ages. Nitric acid was called ‘strong water’ and a mixture of nitric acid and hydrochloric acid was celebrated for its amazing ability to dissolve gold. Potassium nitrate was also used hundreds of years ago in gunpowder and more recently as fertilizer. So now you know who discovered nitrogen. Now let’s look at four amazing facts about nitrogen.

Four Facts about Nitrogen
Fact 1: Nitrogen is fairly unreactive at standard temperature and pressure. It is very unreactive due to the strong triple bond in a nitrogen molecule that is difficult to break down. Nitrogen does, however, form a variety of different compounds with transition metals.

Fact 2: Nitrogen gas is colorless, tasteless and odorless.

Fact 3: Nitrogen gas is the most abundant gas in the air. It constitutes 78% of the air.

Fact 4: Some bacteria ‘fix’ nitrogen, converting it to forms that are more useful to plants.

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(19) Comments

  1. I just checked in my chemistry textbook and it says Daniel Rutherford, not Kutherford. Several other sources online also confirm that the name is Rutherford.

  2. Most of the information comes from my studies at University. So I mainly use text books and lecture notes (and, yes, what I remember from my head). As I mentioned in my last comment above, I also use some websites to check all my facts.

  3. For thousands of years. The ‘middle ages’ were between 400AD and 1500AD so it was being used during this time period.

  4. im at school i just want to tell you that this Daniel Rutherford is my great great great great great great great grandfather…..i think

  5. Nitrogen is used for many things including:

    - Preserving the freshness of packaged foods
    - Used in light bulbs (as an alternative to argon)
    - To produce electronic parts such as transistors and diodes
    - Fill aircraft tires
    - Manufacture stainless steel

    In the future, nitrogen may be used to power cars. This will produce far less pollution.

  6. The man who discovered how to separate nitrogen from the air is Daniel Rutherford, no doubt about it, and thanks alot this will really help me in my science project!

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