In our last article on Beryllium facts that we did back in 2017, we did not mention anything about the discovery of the element. Not just discovery, we actually left out several other Beryllium fun facts that you should learn to supplement your knowledge about this particular element. In this article, we are going to learn those facts. In case you find chemistry to be a boring subject, it is a different matter altogether but we, pretty strongly believe that you will find this particular set of facts interesting! Let us begin…
Beryllium Fun Facts: 1-5 | Etymology & Discovery
1. Beryllium was actually known to ancient worlds but in form of Emerald and Beryl (a gemstone). Even the ancient Egyptians knew about them.
2. The word “Beryllium” had many early precursors in various languages. Some of those precursors in different languages are provided in the table below:
Veḷuriya, Veḷiru, Viḷar
3. As far as the original source of the word “Beryllium” is concerned, it is believed to have originated from a Sanskrit word called “Vaidurya”. This Sanskrit word in turn finds its origin in South Indian language and can be related to Belur – a modern city in India.
4. In 1789, René Haüy of France found that both Emerald and Beryl had similarities when it came to properties and structure despite the fact that two had different colors.
5. This stunning discovery left René Haüy wondering whether the two were made of the same element. To find the answer to this question, René Haüy went to Nicolas Louis Vauquelin, who was a French chemist with specialization in analyzing.
Beryllium Fun Facts: 6-10 | Discovery & Naming
6. Upon analyzing both Beryl and Emerald, Vauquelin made a weird discovery. He found that both the gemstones had a new substance with a sweet taste. The substance that Vauquelin tasted was ‘Beryllia’ (this is the name that is known to us today), which is basically an oxide of Beryllium and is represented by the formula BeO.
7. This discovery led Vauquelin to propose that Beryllia was made up of an element that was previously not discovered. He said that it was an earth metal and eventually ended up naming this unknown metal as ‘Earth of Beryl’.
8. Guess what? People (scientists in specific) have quite a bit of fascination for Greek words. It is this bias that eventually led a different name for the undiscovered element. A new name was adopted and element was called “Glyceynum”. The name was again changed to “Glucina or Glucine”.
9. Wondering where Greek comes into play? Well, those names were adopted because of the sweet taste of the salts of the unknown metal. The Greek word for sweet is ‘Glykis’ and hence the names. In case you didn’t know, here is a bonus fact – the word ‘Glucose’ is also derived for ‘Glykis’.
10. During all this time, the element was actually not discovered and yet, different names were given. The actual discovery eventually took place in year 1828 by two different people independently.
Beryllium Fun Facts: 11-15 | Discovery & Naming
11. The two people who discovered Beryllium or better said, isolated the element independently in the same year were:
- Germany’s Friederich Wöhler
- France’s Antoine Bussy
12. Both the people used the very same method for isolating Beryllium. Both of them used Beryllium Chloride and reacted it with Potassium. Both of them used Platinum crucible for the reaction.
13. The reaction yielded Potassium Chloride and Beryllium, thus leading to the discovery of the unknown element that Vauquelin guessed.
14. Friederich Wöhler from Germany was not particularly happy about the name that was already given to the element. He wanted it to be named as ‘Beryllium’ derived from the Greek (yes, Greek) word ‘Beryllos’, which actually meant ‘mineral Beryl’.
15. Antoine Bussy from France on the other hand however wanted the new element to be called as ‘Glucinium’.
Beryllium Fun Facts: 16-20 | Discovery & Naming
16. In the fight between ‘Beryllium’ and ‘Glucinium’, a third person stepped in. The third person was Martin Klaproth, who was also from Germany.
17. Klaproth pointed out a very importing thing: “In 1801, it was found that the element ‘Yttria’ is also known for forming salts that are sweet in taste”. So, Klaproth argued that if a name that is derived from ‘Beryllos’ is used instead of a name derived from ‘Glykis’, there will be no confusion.
18. Klaproth was really intelligent but he didn’t stop at that argument only. He also pointed out that there was a particular genus of plants that was already known by the name ‘Glucine’.
19. It was not until 1949 that Wöhler’s suggestion fortified by Klaproth’s argument won the battle and IUPAC decided to use the name ‘Beryllium’.
20. Despite the fact that ‘Beryllium’ was chosen over Bussy’s ‘Glucinium’ in year 1949, the name ‘Beryllium’ only became official in year 1957.
Beryllium Fun Facts: 21-25 | Some Unusual Beryllium Facts
21. Beryllium played a major role in proving that neutrons do exist. James Chadwick – an English physicist was running an experiment in 1932. In his experiment, he used a small sample of Beryllium and then bombarded it with Helium nuclei (alpha-rays).
22. In this experiment Chadwick found that Beryllium emitted subatomic particles. These particles had no charge but had mass. These neutral particles that showed up were actually neutrons.
23. When Beryllium is bombarded with 1 million alpha particles (Helium nuclei), it produces 30 million neutrons!
24. During WWII, the production was Beryllium was increased significantly. This reason for this was that there was a very high demand for Phosphorus and Beryllium-Copper alloys that were heavily used for fluorescent lights.
25. Did you know that pure Beryllium has a steel-grey color and is very light. Among the light metals known to us, Beryllium has one of the highest melting points.
Beryllium Fun Facts: 26-30 | Some Unusual Beryllium Facts
26. The mineral Beryl can be found in various precious forms including emerald, morganite and aquamarine.
27. The isotope of Beryllium – 10Be has a half-life of 1.51 million years. It is known as Cosmogenic isotope because it is produced only in the atmosphere when the elements Nitrogen and Oxygen are bombarded with cosmic rays.
28. Did you know that human body contains approximately 35 micrograms of Beryllium. That quantity is not harmful to us.
29. Because of its chemical similarity to Magnesium, Beryllium is capable of displacing Magnesium from enzymes, leading to enzyme malfunction. The Beryllium ion Be2+ is highly charged and so small that it can easily get inside various cells and tissues and target cell nuclei and inhibit enzymes. Even those enzymes are targeted that are essential for synthesis of DNA.
30. Human body is not capable of controlling Beryllium levels. There is no mechanism present in our body. It is because of this, once Beryllium enters our body, there is no way of removing it!
This ends our list of Beryllium fun facts. In case you know a few more, consider dropping them in the comments section. We will happily include them in our article. Only condition – provide the source you referred.