Rediscovery of the Elements: Strontium Page: 1 of 6
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Rediscovery of the Elements
James L. Marshall Beta Eta 71 and
Virginia R. Marshall
Department of Chemistry, University of
North Texas, Denton TX 76203-5070;
Figure 1. Key regions involved in the history of
strontium are London, Edinburgh, and Strontian.
he history of strontium encompasses the
length of Great Britain (Figure 1).
In the late 1700s the physician Adair
Crawford (1748-1795), a physician at the chari-
table St. Thomas Hospital' in Southwark (pro-
nounced Suth'-erk), was prescribing various
salts for his patients' ailments ranging from
tumors and scabs to fevers and swellings.
Southwark is across the Thames River from
London, in the East End of the South Bank
(Figure 2), historically the home of the laboring
class and a red light district. This bawdy area
had been the site of Shakespeare's Globe
Theatre and later would be a sorrowful source of
material for Charles Dickens' tales. One of
Crawford's favorite concoctions was muriated
barytes (barium chloride), which he found to be
a good "evacuant, deobstruent, and tonic."2
Many of the patients were being treated with
mercurial salts (discovered by Paracelsus some
London London 3 km
post office and can be found at the corner of High St.
two hundred years earlier to be the most effec-
tive treatment for venereal diseases3), Along
with treating scrofula and tumors, Adair
Crawford aspired to ameliorate the serious side
effects of this heavy metal medication wth his
muriated barytes. Crawford was a part-time
lecturer at Woolwich Arsenal, and he used the
services of the "Elaboratory" Chemist, William
Cruikshank, Surgeon of Artillery and to the
Medical Department,' who prepared the
medicaments.2 Cruikshank tested salts from
various geographical locations, one of which
was Strontean [sic], Scotland. His experiments
suggested that this mineral "really possesses
different properties from the terra ponderosa
[barium carbonate] of Scheele and Bergman."2
These different properties included a different
solubility in cold water, a different amount of
'cold' arising from dissolution (i.e., different
heat of solution), and a different crystalline
form. Adair Crawford thus concluded that"It is
probable, indeed, that the Scotch mineral is a
new species of earth which has not hitherto
been sufficiently examined."2 In his paper Dr.
Figure 2. Lambeth (A). This is the present site of
St. Thomas Hospital and holds statues of King
Edward VI (outside) and of the famous "cripples"
(inside), all of which were at the old site in
Southwark. The entrance of the hospital is on
Lambeth Palace Road ((N 51' 29.99, W 00 07.01)
and is located 400 meters southwest of Waterloo
Underground Station. Also at the Lambeth site is
the Florence Nightingale Museum, which holds
memorabilia of the nursing profession.
Southwark (B). See inset in lower half of figure.
The old St. Thomas Hospital, now demolished, lay
roughly at the London Bridge Underground/Railroad
Station complex. A portion of the original wall still
stands (Remnant) which is now incorporated into a
and St. Thomas St. (N51'30.32, W 00" 05.36). The
Figure 3. The famous cripples which stood outside
the old St. Thomas Hospital. They now are on dis-
play inside the present St. Thomas Hospital.
Crawford cautioned that "From trials which
have been made with dogs it appears that a
very large dose of muriated barytes would
prove fatal. I therefore think it necessary to
caution those who are unskillful [sic] in medi-
cine, not to tamper with this remedy."2
Old Operating Theatre Museum (Garret) is located 30 meters east on St. Thomas St. (N 51'30.30,W 00'
05.33); although not formally a part of St. Thomas Hospital, it was used for surgical operations. Guy's
Hospital (not shown) is 200 meters further southeast on St. Thomas St. and should not be confused with
the St. Thomas Hospital.
Woolwich (C). One reaches the sites of interest by taking a train to Woolwich Arsenal Railway Station
(not Woolwich Dockyards Railway Station), walking 200 meters north on Woolwich New Road and cross-
ing Plumstead (major road) to the entrance. The Royal Military Academy (where Crawford performed his
lectures and Cruikshank did his chemical analyses on barytes (and strontium) can be found by continuing
to walk 250 meters to the north (N 51' 29.64, E 00' 04.14).
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Marshall, James L., 1940- & Marshall, Virginia R. Rediscovery of the Elements: Strontium, article, Autumn 2002; Indianapolis, Indiana. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc111186/m1/1/: accessed May 26, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT College of Arts and Sciences.