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Properties of an Element: Oxygen

The Discovery and Origin of Oxygen

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The Discovery and Origin of Oxygen
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Oxygen was discovered in 1774 by Joseph Priestly.  Priestly was a Quaker minister who discovered oxygen in a brewery while experimenting with mercuric oxide (HgO).  While others had produced oxygen in the past, Priestly was the first to recognize it as a distinct element (some say that Carl Wilhem Scheele was the first to discover oxygen, but Priestly published the information first due to delayed publication of Scheele's findings).  Priestly also invented carbonate beverages.
 
Oxygen was named by Antoine Lavoisier.  He came up with oxygen by putting together two Greek words: Oksys (acid) and gen (producing).  Together, oksys and gen mean "acid producing" in Greek.  Many acids contain oxygen, so Lavoisier proposed that Oxygen was responsible for the acidic properties.