Axel Fredrik Cronstedt

Axel Fredrik Cronstedt

Baron Axel Fredrik Cronstedt (1722 – 1765) was a Swedish chemist who discovered nickel in 1751, he was a mining expert with the Bureau of Mines. Cronstedt described it as "kupfernickel" (the devil's copper). He was a pupil of Georg Brandt, the discoverer of cobalt.

Cronstedt also discovered the mineral scheelite in 1751. He named the mineral tungsten, meaning heavy stone in Swedish. Carl Wilhelm Scheele later suggested that a new metal could be extracted from the mineral. In English, this metal is now known as tungsten.

Cronstedt was described as 'the founder of Mineralogy' by John Griffin in his 1827 "A Practical Treatise on the Use of the Blowpipe".

His father was an officer in the Swedish military, and Cronstedt was expected to follow his father's career. However, apart from a short spell during wartime, he did not serve in the army. He studied maths at Uppsala and eventually became a prominent expert in mining.

To give himself more of a grounding in scientific methods, he enrolled in a course entitled "The Art of Experiment and Chemistry," given by Georg Brandt (1694-1768), the discoverer of cobalt. Cronstedt, in his study of metals, was the first to systematically use blowpipe analysis (where a small sample is burned in an intense flame and the colours produced are analysed to determine the sample's makeup). While he did not invent this method, it was Cronstedt who developed it as a useful scientific tool, and it remained in wide use until the introduction of the diffraction grating.

The discovery of nickel was only proved beyond all doubt by Bergman in 1775 - after his death - but Cronstedt was the first to identify 'kupfernickel' ("the devil's copper", as miners of the day called it) as metal in its own right, rather than a combination of copper, arsenic and other metals, as was generally believed by his contemporaries.

Cronstedt also introduced a new classification of metals, based on their chemical structures rather than just their appearances. [Gillispie, Charles CDictionary of Scientific Biography, vol III(New York,Scribner's,1971)] [Asimov, Isaac, Asimov's Biographical Encyclopaedia of Science and Technology, (New York , Doubleday, 1964)

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References


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