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January 16 Science History

Learn about the history of science by reading about the significant scientific events that took place on this day in history.

1967 - Robert Jemison Van de Graaff died.

Van de Graaff was the American physicist who designed the Van de Graaff generator. The Van de Graaff is a generator capable of generating high voltages of static electricity. It uses an insulated motorized belt to transfer charge from a power source to the surface of a conducting sphere. They are capable of generating voltages of up to approximately 20 million volts and are usually used to demonstrate the effects of high DC voltage.

1806 - Nicolas Leblanc died.

Leblanc was a French physician and chemist who developed a process to convert salt (sodium chloride) into soda ash (sodium carbonate). His process greatly reduced the cost of soda ash, used as an alkali ingredient for soap, paper making and glassworks. This process replaced the previous source of wood ashes and was used extensively throughout the 19th Century until replaced by the Solvay process.

1767 - Anders Gustav Ekeberg was born.

Ekeberg was a Swedish chemist who discovered the element tantalum. He isolated the element from the mineral tantalite that was thought to be made up of two elements named after the children of Tantalus: Niobe (niobium) and Pelops (pelopium). It was later determined that pelopium was comprised of a mixture of niobium and Ekeberg's new element, tantalum.

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