Illustration of Nitrogen

1772 Nitrogen

The book of science

Tom Sharp

EdinburghDaniel Rutherford elements Illustration of Nitrogen


Joseph Black called carbon dioxide fixed air. Daniel Rutherford was Joseph Black’s student. Rutherford removed the oxygen from air by having a mouse breathe it until it died then burning a candle and phosphorus in it until they wouldn’t burn then passing what remained through a solution to absorb the fixed air and he called the air that remained noxious air. * Scheele, Cavendish, and Priestley called it burnt air or phlogisticated air. Antoine Lavoisier called it mephitic air or azote, which means “lifeless,” because animals died in it.

Atomic number 7

Over three-quarters of the atmosphere on Earth is nitrogen but in the atmosphere it is an inert triple-bonded diatomic gas. All amino acids essential in human nutrition contain nitrogen and nitrogen is also required for our DNA. To get this nitrogen we depend on plants. Plants also depend on nitrigen and use an enzyme to cleave diatomic nitrogen to make ammonia or nitrate. * The energy it takes to cleave diatomic nitrogen is stored in atomic nitrogen or nitrogen compounds and available for cleaners, fertilizer, poisons, rocket fuel, and explosives.

Stuff that explodes

Stuff that explodes can be a shock. Some don’t remember what happened to them even though they must live with the damage. The roots of violence are deep, but easy to uncover. Famine, war, genocide, persecution, religious extremism are the damage, not the stuff that explodes. I wish I could claim that victims and perpetrators of ignorance, hatred, and greed might learn to live in a state of grace.

Humankind already has prescriptions and proscriptions for peace. Apparently, that’s not enough. Gradually, our activities have been poisoning our soil and water with nitrates and nitrites, which have damaging effects on our health.

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