The discovery of nitrogen.

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“A chemical element, symbol N, atomic number 7, atomic weight 14.0067; it is a gas, diatomic (N2) under normal conditions; about 78% of the atmosphere is N2; in the combined form the element is a constituent of all proteins.”[1]


The Scottish physicist, chemist and botanist Daniel Rutherford isolated nitrogen in 1772. In his 1772 dissertation[2], he acknowledged the discovery of a new gas but he did not include specific details of the experiments he had conducted. This is what was mentioned in his dissertation about the isolation of nitrogen:

  • He first removed oxygen from a closed container by first using a mouse, then a candle, and finally by burning phosphorus.
  • The remaining air (which contained carbon dioxide) was passed through lime-water which resulted in a milky solution as the carbon dioxide reacted with the lime-water.
  • What then remained in the air was largely composed of nitrogen.

Here is a portrait[3] of Daniel Rutherford:

[ux_image_box img=”896″ image_width=”40″ link=”” target=”_blank”]



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  3. daniel-rutherford-17491819-186075/search/collection:royal- college-of-physicians-of-edinburgh-2422/page/5/sort_by/