Department of Chemistry
200 University Ave. W
Canada N2L 3G1
Phone: (519) 888-4567 ext 32129
Sir Humphry Davy (1778-1829) was a famous chemist of the early 19th century who developed a popular lecture tradition for the public at the Royal Institution in London that persists to this day. He is also highly honoured in his hometown of Penzance, Cornwall for his invention of the miner’s safety lamp. But he is best known for the discovery of the active metals in their metallic form.
Previously, sodium, potassium, calcium, and others of the alkali and alkaline earth families had been known only in their compound form, such as caustic potash (potassium hydroxide), natron (sodium carbonate) or limestone (calcium carbonate). Davy developed an electrolysis technique, which enabled him to produce the pure form of these active metals, each of which would react rapidly with the atmosphere or with water to revert to the original compound form.
Explore the elements by decade:
Read more: "Humphry Davy and the voltaic pile," a Chem 13 News article by James Marshall.
1805-1814: sodium, potassium, boron, calcium, iodine
Sodium was discovered by Sir Humphrey Davy in 1807. He also travelled a lot and was in our country for a few times (Slovenia, Europe). He was amazed by the beauty of our mountains. He especially adored a very small alpine village called Podkoren. There is an old house with a memorial plate in his honour. The image includes crystals of sodium chloride below, the village Podkoren and our green mountains and woods and Davy´s portrait.
In 1807 Sir Humphry Davy discovered the element potassium which is why his image was included. The experiment shown at the bottom of the artwork is the reaction of potassium and water forming potassium hydroxide and hydrogen gas. Davy conducted this experiment with Faraday in 1808. The 19 silver balls represent the 19 electrons in potassium. The food on the top right side represents the food containing a high level of potassium. The nerve drawn in the artwork was included because getting enough potassium from your diet can help to maintain healthy nerve function.
Boron – The Fifth Element - was discovered in 1808 by Sir Humphry Davy, Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac, and Louis Jacques Thénard in experiments on boric acid. Borax, the sodium salt of boric acid, is a naturally occurring mineral that is used daily for many purposes in society, including the production of detergents, anti-fungal agents, and materials. Our artwork is stylized to represent the iconic packaging of commercial borax and features the [B4O5(OH)4]2- anion present in the molecular structure of the salt.
In 1808 calcium was first isolated by Sir Humphry Davy, a chemist, inventor and at the time Britain’s leading scientist. He conducted many experiments to reduce moist lime by electrolysis, similarly to producing sodium and potassium, with often unsuccessful results. Through further experimentations, however, he electrolyzed a mixture of lime and mercuric oxide together, which allowed him to isolate and discover calcium.
First students collected information about the timeline element iodine from library. Students took one week to read and understand about the properties and uses of iodine. Then students shared their knowledge through cooperative learning strategy. They selected six important points for the hexagon, including its discovery in 1811. Students designed the hexagon with art work and inserted each point in the hexagon. The emphasis of this activity was on cooperative learning and creativity.
Lithium is a chemical element on the Periodic Table with the symbol Li and the atomic number 3. I drew the Swedish flag because lithium was discovered in Sweden. I illustrated Johan August Arfwedson because he discovered this chemical element in 1817. The magenta colour at the top of my artwork represents the magenta flame that lithium produces. I also included images of lithium pills and lithium batteries. Lithium can be found in pills used to prevent illnesses such as depression and manic syndrome. Lithium batteries are frequently used to power electric cars, some computers and medical devices.