Rediscovery of the Elements: Althofen, Austria and Auer von Welsbach Page: 3 of 3
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Figure 8. University of Vienna, Chemistry Building, where Welsbach discovered praseodymium and
neodymium (N 48 12.97; E 16' 21.62). The laboratory was in the basement. Now the building houses the
Institut fur Medizinische Chemie der Universitdt Wien (Medical chemistry, University of Vienna). This
building is 1.0 km north-northeast from the Hofburg (the Imperial Castle of Vienna). Inset: Close-up of one
of the 29 chemists' names engraved around the parapet.
His seventieth birthday was celebrated by a lav-
ish festivity in 1928, a year before his death."
Now the castle is quietly maintained by his
In 1901 Franz Josef I, Emperor of Austria and
King of Hungary, bestowed upon Welsbach the
title of "Freiherr" (Baron) (Figure 7). As Franz
Josef congratulated Welsbach upon the many
discoveries, the ever business-minded but
beneficent Welsbach responded, "Thank you,
up to now over 40,000 persons have won gain-
ful employment through my discoveries.""
The old chemistry building of the University
of Vienna, where Welsbach performed his orig-
inal work, including the separation of
praseodymium and neodymium, still stands
(Figure 8). Close by, a monument dedicated to
his work (Figure 9) stands at the current
departments of analytical and organic chem-
istry at the University of Vienna. Inscribed on
the stone are the words "plus lucis" ("more
light"), a maxim that guided him throughout
his productive life. C
The authors wish to thank Mr. Roland
Adunka, proprietor of the Welsbach Museum,
for supplying the bulk of the information used
in this report,'2 and for giving directions to
Schlog Welsbach and the relevant sites in
1. After Thomas A. Edison's carbon prototype in
1879, Welsbach in 1898 first produced a light bulb
with a metallic filament, using osmium. After a
subsequent interlude of tantalum's use as a fila-
ment, the tungsten filament bulb was invented
by William David Coolidge of General Electric
Company in Schenectady, NewYork, in 1910.
Figure 9. Denkmal (mon-
ument) of Welsbach, erect-
ed in 1935, in front of the
present Institut fiir
Analytische Chemie der
Universitat Wien and
Institut fur Organische 4
Chemie der Universitat-
Wien (analytical and
University of Vienna)
(N 48' 13.21; E 16'
21.39), at the corner of
Wdhringerstrafe, 0.6 km
north-northeast of old
chemistry building. Inset:
Close-up, showing the
maxim that powered
Welsbahs life: "plus
lucis"("niore light"). ---
-'F RE IH ER R
AU E RVON
WE LS BACH
2. While working with Robert Bunsen,
Welsbach learned that cerium when struck
would emit sparks. Welsbach utilized this idea
to invent the "striker" cigarette lighter, and later
the "rotary" cigarette lighter. He developed fer-
rocerium, which is still used as the"flint"in cig-
arette lighters. Selecting the most effective
pyrophoric composition of 70/30 Ce/Fe,
Welsbach named this substance "Auermetall."
At the museum one can purchase working
examples of the "striker" lighter ("Treibacher
Feuerzeug," meaning "Treibach match-box")
that Welsbach invented (Figure 5).
3. The original Welsbach mantle was impreg-
nated with incandescent yttrium/lanthanum
oxide; later versions used thorium oxide (99:1
thorium oxide:cerium oxide being the most
effective). By the early 1930s street lighting in
London was equally divided between gas
(mantles) and electricity (bulbs).' For a review
of illumination, including the competition
between the incandecent mantle and the
incandescent bulb, see ref 2.
4. Welsbach first reported the spectroscopic
identification' of the two elements two years
before Georges Urbain of Paris claimed the dis-
covery.' Lutetium was also independently dis-
covered by Charles James of New Hampshire,
and Welsbach." Welsbach worked out detailed
separation techniques for the rare earths (by
means of tartrates, citrates, malonates, maleates,
and succinates) using chemical operations
which paralleled those of Charles James. The
history of the discovery of lutetium, its claims,
and its counterclaims have been discussed.9
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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/m1/3/: accessed December 17, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT College of Arts and Sciences.