Section 17

Hydrogen

The word hydrogen is derived from the French hydrogène, which in turn is derived from the Greek hydros “water” plus the French -gène “producing.” Hydrogen is the most abundant element, comprising about three-quarters of the mass of the entire observable universe. This means that there are about 1080 atoms of hydrogen in the universe!

Hydrogen was the accidental discovery of Paracelsus, the sixteenth century Swiss alchemist who observed a gaseous product arising when iron was dissolved in sulfuric acid (1530s). He described this as “an air which bursts forth like the wind.” English chemist Henry Cavendish was the first to identify the properties of hydrogen after he evolved hydrogen gas by reacting zinc metal with hydrochloric ...

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