Chemical Element: nickel

(German: Nickel, name for "Satan"; kupfernickel, meaning "Devil’s copper" or "St Nicholas’s (Old Nick’s) copper"; metal)

Chemical-Element Information

Symbol: Ni
Atomic number: 28
Year discovered: 1751

Discovered by: Baron Axel Fredrik Cronstedt (1722-1765), a Swedish mineralogist.

  • Minerals containing nickel were of value for coloring glass green.
  • The mineral used for coloring glass was called kupfernickel (false copper).
  • Nickel was discovered by Baron Axel Frederik Cronstedt in a mineral called niccolite.
  • Apparently, he had expected to extract copper from this mineral but he didn’t get any, obtaining instead a white metal that he called nickel after the mineral from which it was extracted.
  • Cronstedt discovered that nickel, like iron but not as strongly, was attracted by a magnet.
  • It was the first time that anything except iron had been found to be attracted by a magnet.
  • In fact, magnets were eventually found to attract cobalt as well.
  • An impure ore containing niccolite earlier than 1700 caused copper and silver miners in Saxony, Germany, considerable trouble because although it resembled copper in color, it yielded a brittle , unfamiliar product.
  • They referred to it as “kupfernickel”, after “Old Nick” and his mischievous gnomes, and Cronstedt applied their name to his new element.
  • His results were confirmed in 1775 by Torbern Olof Bergman (1735-1784), Swedish chemist and physicist, and the name nickel soon became generally accepted.
  • About a century passed before nickel was mined in quantity for a growing world market.

Name in other languages:

French: nickel

German: Nickel

Italian: nichel

Spanish: niquel

Information about other elements may be seen at this Chemical Elements List.

A special unit about words that include chemo-, chem- may be seen here.