1784 Hydrogen and water

The book of science

Tom Sharp

LondonHenry Cavendish elements

Hydrogen and water



Carl Wilhelm Scheele and Joseph Priestley discovered oxygen, but Antoine Lavoisier named it oxygène, meaning “acid-former” in Greek. Lavoisier also named Cavendish’s inflammable air hydrogène, “water-former” in Greek, because it produces water when it is burned.

It is strange that water extinguishes a fire when both of its components, hydrogen and oxygen, are highly reactive, but water seldom extinguishes a fire by smothering it; instead, the heat of the fire vaporizes the water, and the energy required for this starves the fire of the heat needed for the chain reaction.

Also a vocabulary note. In English, “inflammable” and “flammable” have the same meaning.

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