Chemical Element: vanadium

(Modern Latin: named for the Scandinavian goddess Vanadis; metal)

Chemical-Element Information

Symbol: V
Atomic number: 23
Year discovered: 1801

Discovered by: Andrés del Rio of Mexico City and Nils Gabriel Sefstrom (1787-1854), Swedish chemist and mineralogist.

  • Vanadium was discovered by Andrés Manuel del Rio at Mexico City in 1801.
  • He reported the discovery of a new element in vanadinite from Zimapán, Mexico, which he named “erythronium” because of the red color acquired by its salts when heated.
  • On re-examination, a few years later he concluded that he was mistaken and that the brown ore from Zimapán was merely a basic lead chromate.
  • In 1830, N. G. Sefström became interested in an extremely soft iron obtained from Taberg, Sweden, iron ore and on examination discovered in the ore, as well as in the wrought iron and slag.
  • Sefström called the new element vanadium, from Vanadis, the Scandinavian goddess of beauty and youth; a name suggested by the beautiful colors of its compounds in solution.
  • Earlier, F. Wöhler had undertaken a re-examination of the vanadinite ore from Zimapán and found (1830) that the new element, surmised and abandoned by Del Rio, was identical with Sefström’s vanadium.
  • As a result of illness caused by poisoning when working with hydrogen fluoride vapor, Wöhler failed to report his findings and thus did not receive credit for discovering the new element.
  • Metallic vanadium was not accomplished until 1867 when Henry Enfield Roscoe reduced vandium chloride with hydrogen gas to give vanadium metal.
  • Vanadium is widely distributed in various minerals, coal, and petroleum.
  • Vanadium metal sheet, strip, foil, bar, wire, and tubing have found use in high temperature service, in the chemical industry, and in bonding other metals.
  • The greatest uses of vanadium pentoxide and ammonium metavanadate, after the mid-20th century, were as catalysts, in coloring glass and cermic glazes, for driers in paints and inks, and for laboratory research.

Name in other languages:

French: vanadium

German: Vanadium

Italian: vanadio

Spanish: vanadio

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.