User:Sog1970/Interactive Periodic Table/Cu

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The element now known as Copper has been known from earliest times but primitive man found it hard to purify, preferring to alloy the metal with Tin or Zinc. Copper, like all metals, is considerably softer as an element and an expected bonus of the alloying process was that both Brass and Bronze make stronger tools and, as a consequence, more satisfying dents in both animals and the skulls of enemies.

It was left to unconventional Yorkshireman Joseph Priestley (1733 – 1804) to finally perfectly separate Copper from other elements. Having isolated Oxygen in 1774 Priestley’s reputation might have been expected to secure him national fame, but instead he found himself persecuted by his aristocratic patron, William Petty. In 1772, Petty had built Priestley a laboratory at Bowood House but began to realise that his investment would not pay off when the High Court pronounced that:

“Discoverie of ye Dephlogisticated Air doth not, in and of itself, proffer legal ownership thereof.”

Petty, denied the patent he had expected, was forced to repay all charges imposed for the use of Priestley’s discovery and to allow free usage of Oxygen to all in perpetuity – greatly enhancing the life-expectancy of the poorest in society. The peasantry was delighted but Petty vented his fury chasing Priestley through the courts for financial recompense. Eventually, Priestley was forced to work 24 hours a day at his new laboratory in Birmingham, desperately trying to isolate new elements that would pay off his debt.

In 1791, with the bank about to finally to foreclose, he finally separated Copper. He immediately realised the usefulness of his discovery and began to make plans to settle his debt in the small change he intended to mint with it. By 1791, over 50 ox-carts of pennies had transported to settle Petty’s claim of £8,000. Exhausted, Priestley fled to the continent where he announced his discovery to the Lavoisier and named it “Copper” after the detective who had stood at his shoulder every moment until the debt was paid off in full. He gave the new metal the symbol “Cu” in memory, he said:

“Of the great difficultie encountered in mine pursuit of Chemistrie. Verily, this purifying this elemente t’was the biggest cunt of a job”

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