Gallium is a chemical element with the atomic number 31 and the chemical symbol Ga. It is a soft silvery metal that is not found naturally on Earth as a pure metal. The metal is commonly obtained by smelting and the most important source of the metal is obtained as a trace component of bauxite. It can also be obtained from other ores and minerals, although this is rarely done commercially. 98% of the gallium mined is used for semiconductors and a large portion is recycled each year for this purpose as well. Let’s find out who discovered this important element.
Who discovered gallium?
The existence of gallium was predicted in 1871 by Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev, while continuing the work on his newly created periodic table. He called the element ekaaluminium because of its predicted position on the periodic table. Mendeleev was ridiculed by some scientists for suggesting that more elements would be found, but he was proven correct just four years later.
Gallium was discovered by spectroscopy in 1875 by French chemist Paul Emile Lecoq de Boisbaudran. He discovered the distinct dual violet lines while studying a sample of the mineral sphalerite. Later in the same year he was able to obtain the free metal for the first time. He named the element from the Latin Gallia, which means Gaul (the old name for the region now known as France).
Did you know?
Dmitri Mendeleev accurately predicted most of the qualities of gallium before it was even discovered. He also accurately predicted scandium, technetium, germanium and also predicted an element between thorium and uranium (protactinium).
Boisbaudran also discovered the chemical elements samarium (1880), dysprosium (1886) and europium (1890).