Samarium is a relatively hard silver metal which oxidizes quickly in air to develop a grayish-yellow tarnish. It is a chemical element represented by the symbol Sm and the atomic number 62. It is the 40th most common element in the crust of the Earth and although it is not found in free form naturally it is contained in many minerals. The most important of these minerals for commercial production of the element are monazite and bastnaesite. It is estimated that there are two million metric tons of this metal and about 700 metric tons are produced each year. Countries with the largest deposits include; China, the United States, Brazil, India, Sri Lanka and Australia. Let’s find out when this element was discovered and who made this discovery.
Who discovered samarium?
The discovery of samarium is the subject of much debate because several scientists announced the discovery around the same time in the 19th century. Generally the discovery is credited to the French chemist Paul Émile Lecoq de Boisbaudran who isolated the element from samarskite in 1879. Boisbaudran named the element samarium after this mineral, which had been named in honor of the Russian mining engineer Vasili Samarsky-Bykhovets who had granted access to two German chemists so that they could study minerals. In this roundabout way the element samarium was the first to be named after a person!
It was later found that Boisbaudran’s sample was not pure samarium as it also contained the element europium. The first to isolate the pure element was French chemist Eugène-Anatole Demarçay who achieved this feat in 1901. In doing this he was also the first person to discover europium!
Did you know?
Swiss chemist Marc Delafontaine announced the discovery of decipium in 1878, but later showed that it was actually a mixture of elements that included samarium.