Want to stay on top of all the space news? Follow @universetoday on TwitterYou could argue that the first person on the planet is who discovered oxygen. For the purposes of this article, we will stick to the person who first defined the element as a separate entity from the air that we breathe.
Oxygen was first discovered by Carl Scheele, a pharmacist. He produced oxygen gas by heating mercuric oxide and various nitrates as early as 1772. He called the it “fire air” because it was the only known supporter of combustion. He wrote a paper about his discovery, but it was not published until 1777. In 1774, Joseph Priestley focused sunlight on mercuric oxide, liberating a gas he named “dephlogisticated air”. He noted that candles burned brighter in the gas and that a mouse was more active and lived longer while breathing it. He published his findings in 1775, so his findings are usually given priority.
Antione Lavoisier conducted the first quantitative experiments on oxidation and gave the first correct explanation of how combustion works.He used these and similar experiments to discredit the phlogiston theory and to prove that the substance was a chemical element. He proved that air is a mixture of two gases and is essential to combustion and respiration.
Oxygen has the chemical symbol O and an atomic number of 8. It is classified as a nonmetal and chalcogen. It is most commonly in its gas phase, has a density of 1.429g/L, a melting point of -218.79°C, and a boiling point of -182.95°C.
The closest that anyone can come to who discovered oxygen is to refer to Carl Scheele and Joseph Priestly. Each warrant further research in order to appreciate their individual contributions to science.
If you’d like more info on Oxygen, check out this page about Oxygen. And here’s a link to Chemical Elements.com.
We’ve also recorded an episode of Astronomy Cast all about planet Earth. Listen here, Episode 51: Earth.