Rediscovery of the Elements: Althofen, Austria and Auer von Welsbach Page: 1 of 3
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Althofen, Austria and Auer von Welsbach
James L. Marshall Beta Eta '71 and
Virginia R. Marshall
Department of Chemistry, University of
North Texas, Denton TX 76203-5070;
Computer Technology, Denton ISD,
Denton TX 76201
Tucked away in South Austria (Figure 1) is
the relatively unknown Kamten region
(Carinthian Range of the Alps), with
rolling landscape and distant white-capped
mountains. Here one can find the treasure of
the Welsbach Museum, a tribute to Baron Carl
Auer von Welsbach (1858-1929), a fascinating
and prolific chemist.
We reached this historic site after a four-
hour meandering train ride from Innsbruck,
disembarking at Treibach, Austria onto a deso-
late platform (see Figure 2). Some school chil-
dren were passing by and we asked directions
to the Prechtlhof Hotel, where we had reserva-
tions." Ja, ja, folgen Sie uns" they chattered as
they trotted up a hillside trail. They giggled as
they glanced back at us, huffing and puffing,
struggling to keep up, with our packs on our
backs. After 20 minutes we arrived at the sum-
mit; they pointed at the hotel and departed. The
panorama was gorgeous (Figure 3). The quiet
atmosphere of the Prechtlhof was elegant and
the hospitality was sumptuous.
The Welsbach Museum can be reached by a
10-minute walk from the hotel (Figure 4). The
museum, open only since April, 1998, holds six
large rooms devoted entirely to Auer von
Welsbach, his life, and his work. The museum
has displays commemorating the productive
and imaginative life of Welsbach (Figure 5),
including the first metallic filament incandes-
cent lamp (note 1), the world's largest display of
cigarette lighters (note 2), and the incandescent
"Welsbach mantle" which is used in outdoor
and camp lanterns today (note 3).
In the "Chemical Room" of the Museum are
Welsbach's original samples of praseodymium
and neodymium ammonium nitrate salts (a
brilliant apple-green Pr and a rich magenta Nd)
which he separated after 167 crystallizations
Figure 1. Austria lies in the Eastern Alps region of Europe. The Karnten (Carinthian) region of south
Austria is shaded, in which the Welsbach Museum at Althofen is located. Auer von Welsbach performed
his original work in Vienna, and later settled in Treibach. Other sites of interest to the traveling scientist
include Salzburg, where Paracelsus lived during the latter part of his life; Munchen with the Technisches
Museum; and Bolzano with its Museo Archiological, the final resting place for Otzi, the iceman. Innsbruck
is a famed summer and winter resort.
from "didymium" salts in concentrated nitric
acid solutions.3 Didymium had been discovered
by Carl Gustav Mosander of Stockholm in
1841, which he separated from lanthanum.4
Welsbach not only discovered these two rare
earths, but also "cassiopeium" and "aldebari-
Figure 2. The Welsbach Museum
(A) is situated at the highest point
in Althofen at 800 meters (N 46'
52.52; E 14' 28.43). The Prechtlhof
Hotel (B) is 300 meters down the
road (N 46' 52.37 E 14'28.54).
Welsbach performed his later work
at Treibacher Industrie (C), on
Auer-von-Welsbach-strafle (N 46'
52.10; E 14*27.74). His home,
Schlofi Welsbach, Welsbach Castle,
(D), which is not open to the public
and cannot be seen from public
roads, may be reached by driving 5
kilometers west (N 46 51.32; E 14'
um,"5 presently known as lutetium and ytter-
bium (note 4).
In another room of the Museum is a com-
plete replica of Welsbach laboratory, with the
original equipment and furniture. Also stored
are hundreds of bottles containing Welsbach's
2 km B
L66 Treming 4
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Marshall, James L., 1940- & Marshall, Virginia R. Rediscovery of the Elements: Althofen, Austria and Auer von Welsbach, article, Spring 2002; Indianapolis, Indiana. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc111184/m1/1/: accessed March 24, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT College of Arts and Sciences.