C  O  N  T  E  N  T  S

The gas that wouldn't burn
"Helium is no longer a rare element"
Helium production in the United States
Hamilton Perkins Cady
David Ford McFarland
Bailey Hall
Landmark designation and acknowledgments

The Discovery of Helium in Natural Gas


"And now, while we have accomplished only an imperfect examination of objects that we find on earth, see how, on a sudden, through the vista that has been opened by the spectroscope, what a prospect lies beyond us in the heavens. I often look at the bright yellow ray emitted from the chromosphere of the Sun, by that unknown element, helium, as the astronomers have ventured to call it. It seems trembling with excitement to tell its story."

When John W. Draper mentioned helium during his inaugural address as the first president of the American Chemical Society in 1876, only eight years had passed since French and English astronomers had first identified this strange element in the gases surrounding the Sun. Because it was then unknown on planet Earth, helium derived its name from the Greek word for the Sun, Helios. While some scientists debated the original astronomical findings, others found that extremely small amounts could be obtained by heating some uranium minerals. Yet, by 1897, helium was still considered to be one of the rarest elements then discovered.

The American Chemical Society designated the discovery of helium in natural gas as a National Historic Chemical Landmark at The University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas, on April 15, 2000.

 

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The gas that wouldn't burn | "Helium is no longer a rare element" | Helium production in the United States
Hamilton Perkins Cady | David Ford McFarland | Bailey Hall | Landmark designation and acknowledgments

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