Tantalum is a hard blue-gray metal that is resistant to corrosion and a chemical element represented by the symbol Ta and the atomic number 73. It is a rare metal, but can be found in many minerals such as tantalite, which is where most of this metal is extracted from commercially. The majority of the world’s supply of tantalum comes from Australia, but relatively large amounts are also mined in China, Ethiopia and Mozambique. The main use of the metal is in electronic equipment. Let’s find out who discovered this metal and when it was found.
Who discovered tantalum?
Tantalum was discovered by Swedish chemist Anders Gustaf Ekeberg who announced the new element in 1802. However, this discovery was the subject of much debate because a year earlier Charles Hatchett had discovered columbium (niobium), which is a very similar metal. In 1809 English chemist William Hyde Wollaston concluded that Ekeberg and Hatchett had discovered the same element, although he decided to keep the tantalum name. These findings were not challenged until 1846 when German chemist Heinrich Rose argued that these were two separate elements. These differences were confirmed in the 1860’s by a number of chemists and the correct credit for the discovery of tantalum and niobium was finally given to Ekeberg and Hatchett for their separate discoveries. In 1864 Swiss chemist Jean Charles Galissard de Marignac, one of those who finally confirmed the difference between the two elements, was the first person to produce tantalum metal in free form.
Did you know?
Anders Gustaf Ekeberg was deaf, but despite this handicap he was elected a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in 1799. Unfortunately, he died in 1813 and didn’t live to see his discovery of tantalum recognized.