The Discovery of Uranium

In 1817, the Museum für Naturkunde bought the original collection of chemist Martin Heinrich Klaproth, (1734-1817), containing the pieces in which he had discovered several elements, including uranium.

Klaproth was one of the first scientists to try and analyse the chemical composition of minerals. He carried out the analyses in his pharmacy Zum Bären (Spandauer Straße, Berlin) and discovered the elements zirconium (1789), titanium (1792) and tellurium (1798).

Sensational Find
Among the purchased items was a piece of uranium oxide that had first been described as black pitchblende in the 16th century. Klaproth found it in the 1789 in the pitchblende of the "Georg Wagsfort" mine (Johanngeorgenstadt) and presented it to the Prussian Academy of Sciences in Berlin on September 24th 1789. However, what he had found was not pure uranium, but a uranium oxide.

A Name derived from Uranus
Klaproth named the element "uranite" after the planet Uranus, which had been discovered just a few years earlier. It was renamed "uranium" a year later (1790). The geologist Haidinger then gave it the name “uranin” 1845, which later became “uraninite”.

Last update: 10.01.2014