Tellurium is a rare silvery-white metal that is occasionally found in its free form on Earth. It is a chemical element represented by the symbol Te and the atomic number 52. It is often found in minerals that also contain gold, but is found in many other minerals as well. It is extremely rare (about as rare as platinum) and is usually obtained for commercial purposes as a byproduct of copper or lead mining and production. The largest producers of this metal are Canada, Japan, Peru and the United States. It is commonly used for creating alloys that respond well to machining. Let’s find out who discovered this element.
Who discovered tellurium?
Tellurium was discovered in the late 18th century by Austrian mineralogist Franz-Joseph Müller von Reichenstein. He was studying gold ore from mines in modern day Romaina, where he was the chief mining inspector. He soon discovered that the gold ore did not contain antimony as was expected and he concluded it was bismuth sulfide. A year later he revised this conclusion and was convinced that the ore was mostly gold and an unknown metal similar to antimony. After a three year investigation he concluded that he had indeed found a new metal, but was unable to identify it.
In 1789 the Hungarian scientist Pál Kitaibel also independently discovered this new element and he went on to give the credit for the discovery to Franz-Joseph Müller von Reichenstein. The element was finally given a name in 1798. The German chemist Martin Heinrich Klaproth, who had isolated the element from the mineral calaverite in 1798, named it tellurium from the Latin word tellus (meaning earth).
Did you know?
Tellurium is mildly toxic to humans. When exposed to the element humans develop foul smelling breath, which is similar to the smell of garlic!