(L. alumen, alum) The ancient Greeks and Romans used alum as an astringent and as amordant in dyeing. In 1761 de Morveau proposed the name alumine for the base in alum, andLavoisier, in 1787, thought this to be the oxide of a still undiscovered metal.
Wohler is generally credited with having isolated the metal in 1827, although an impureform was prepared by Oersted two years earlier. In 1807, Davy proposed the name aluminumfor the metal, undiscovered at that time, and later agreed to change it to aluminum.Shortly thereafter, the name aluminum was adopted to conform with the "ium"ending of most elements, and this spelling is now in use elsewhere in the world.
Aluminium was also the accepted spelling in the U.S. until 1925, at which time theAmerican Chemical Society officially decided to use the name aluminum thereafter in theirpublications.
The method of obtaining aluminum metal by the electrolysis of alumina dissolved incryolite was discovered in 1886 by Hall in the U.S. and at about the same time by Heroultin France. Cryolite, a natural ore found in Greenland, is no longer widely used incommercial production, but has been replaced by an artificial mixture of sodium, aluminum,and calcium fluorides.
Aluminum can now be produced from clay, but the process is not economically feasible atpresent. Aluminum is the most abundant metal to be found in the earth's crust (8.1%), butis never found free in nature. In addition to the minerals mentioned above, it is found ingranite and in many other common minerals.
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'In a way science is a key to the gates of heaven, and the same key opens the gates of hell, and we do not have any instructions as to which is which gate.
Shall we throw away the key and never have a way to enter the gates of heaven? Or shall we struggle with the problem of which is the best way to use the key?'
Richard Phillips Feynman