Posts Tagged ‘Langmuir’

Hafnium and Niels Bohr

Sunday, June 5th, 2011

In 1923, Coster and von Hevesy[cite]10.1038/111079a0[/cite] claimed discovery of the element Hafnium, atomic number 72 (latin Hafnia, meaning Copenhagen, where the authors worked) on the basis of six lines in its X-ray spectrum. The debate had long raged as to whether (undiscovered) element 72 belonged to the rare-earth group 3 of the periodic table below yttrium, or whether it should be placed in group 4 below zirconium. Establishing its chemical properties finally placed it in group 4. Why is this apparently arcane and obscure re-assignment historically significant? Because, in June 1922, in Göttingen, Niels Bohr had given a famous series of lectures now known as the Bohr Festspiele on the topic of his electron shell theory of the atom. Prior to giving these lectures he had submitted his collected thoughts in January 1922[cite]10.1007/BF01326955[/cite].