Rediscovery of the Elements: Fluorine Page: 4 of 5
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Figure 9. The curator of the Moissan museum, Professeur Jerome Dugu6,
Laboratoire de chimie physique et de chimie minerale (right), and Professeur
emerite Jacques Rivet pour wine and prepare hors d'oeuvres in the style of typi-
cal warm French hospitality after Rivet's presentation to the authors.
Figure 11. W6lsendorf Germany, is the site of"Stinkspat,"a radioactive form of
fluorite that produces inclusions of fluorine (N 49 24.59, E 120 11.24, 44 km
north of Regensburg, Germany, and 35 km west of the Czech Republic).
research has reported that when Stinkspat is
crushed, the released fluorine apparently reacts
with water vapor to produce HF, then ozone,
and finally hydrogen peroxide." "Antozonite"
was proposed as a name for this mineral variety
of fluorite by Christian Friedrich Schonbein
(1799-1868), the discoverer of ozone" in 1839;
he also discovered guncotton"' in 1845. W6hler
had also previously noticed the odor from
crushed Stinkspat; and Moissan, familiar with
the odor of F2, verified its identity from the pul-
verized mineral." Recent mass spectral studies"
have shown that samples of Stinkspat contain
quantities of carbon tetrafluoride and sulfur
hexafluoride, the amount of which correlates
with the amount of radioactivity present, but
this experimental procedure is not able to con-
firm the evolution of F2 or other corrosive gases.
Wishing to revisit the 19th-century experi-
ment,' we crushed small (1 gram) quantities of
W6lsendorf Stinkspat (Figure 12) in a mortar.
There was indeed a foul odor, lasting only 2-5
seconds. We ground samples with "Schdnbein
paper" (prepared with potassium iodide and
starch") and verified by the developing blue
color the presence of a powerful oxidizer (the
blue color could subsequently be dissipated by
the addition of thiosulfate solution). A "win-
dowless" EDX (energy dispersive X-ray) analy-
sis of the sample (which can detect elements
with atomic numbers as low as 5) showed only
Ca and F (and traces of Si, Mg, and Al; no O
was detected). Apparently the oxidant does
indeed arise from elemental fluorine! Our
"Living Periodic Table" is now complete-it
now includes a specimen of Stinkspat, which
allows us to claim a sample of fluorine "in the
The authors are indebted to Professeur
Jer6me Dugu6, Laboratoire de chimie physique
et de chimie mindrale, Facult6 des sciences,
University Rend Descartes-Paris 5, for his gra-
cious invitation and hospitality at the Mus e
Henri Moissan at the Facult6 de Pharmacie, 4,
rue de l'Observatoire. Special gratitude is
extended to le Professeur 6merite Jacques Rivet
of the university, who conducted a personal,
detailed tour of the museum and furnished
much documentation and information about
the biography of Henri Moissan, which fur-
nished the bulk of material for this article. C
1. Even research with fluorine salts was dan-
gerous; gaseous hydrogen fluoride itself is
extremely poisonous. Sir Humphry Davy
(1778-1829), successful in the electrolysis and
Figure 12 Stinkspat specimen from W6lsendorf,
Germany. When ground in the presence of
starch/KI paper, a blue color develops, showing the
presence of a strong oxidizer (F2 inclusions).
reduction of reactive metal salts, was sickened,
but recovered. Others who were poisoned by
experiments with hydrogen fluoride include
Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac (1778-1850) and
Louis Jacques Thenard (1777-1857) of France,
and George and Thomas Knox of Ireland.
Among those who perished in the attempt to
prepare elemental fluorine were J6r6me Nickles
(1820-1869) of Nancy, France, and Paulin
Louyet (1818-1850) of Brussels, Belgium.
George Gore (1826-1908) of Birmingham,
England, experienced a violent explosion in
1869 while working with the electrolysis of flu-
2. Nicolas-Louis Vauquelin (1763-1829) had
been the director of the Pharmacie Institute,
then known as Ecole Superieure de Pharmacie
on rue de l'Arbalete, (N 480 50.39, E 02 20.84),
880 meters southeast of the present Facult6 de
Pharmacie at 4, rue de l'Observatoire. The orig-
inal plaque at rue l'Arbalete is displayed in the
front hallwall of the present Facult6 de
Pharmacie and dates the school from 1577. The
building at rue l'Arbalete now houses an
agronomy school (Institut National
Agronomique; main entrance at 16, rue Claude
3. Henri Jules Debray (1827-1888 ) appears
in the painting portraying the preparation of
aluminum by Henri-Etienne Sainte-Claire
Deville (1818-1881) in the Sorbonne."
4. There are scores of paintings, reliefs, busts,
and statues of Lavoisier, but this statue is, in
the opinion of the authors, the grandest. Before
WWII a grandiose statue of Lavoisier was posi-
tioned in front of Madeleine in Paris, but it was
destroyed by the Nazis."
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Marshall, James L., 1940- & Marshall, Virginia R. Rediscovery of the Elements: Fluorine, article, Autumn 2006; Indianapolis, Indiana. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc111213/m1/4/: accessed September 23, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT College of Arts and Sciences.