Johan August Arfwedson

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Johan August Arfwedson
Arfwedson Johan A.jpg
Johan August Arfwedson
Born 12 January 1792 (1792-01-12)
Died 28 October 1841 (1841-10-29)
Nationality Swedish
Fields Chemistry
Known for Discovered lithium
Influenced Jöns Jakob Berzelius

Johan August Arfwedson (12 January 1792 – 28 October 1841) was a Swedish chemist who discovered the chemical element lithium in 1817 by isolating it as a salt.

Life and work[edit]

Arfwedson belonged to a wealthy bourgeois family, the son of the wholesale merchant and factory owner Jacob Arfwedson and his spouse, Anna Elisabeth Holtermann. The younger Arfwedson matriculated as a student at the University of Uppsala in 1803 (at the time, matriculating at a young age was common for aristocratic and wealthy students), completed a degree in Law in 1809 and a second degree in mineralogy in 1812. In the latter year, he received an unpaid position in the Royal Board of Mines, where he advanced to the position of notary (still without a salary) in 1814.

In Stockholm, Arfwedson knew the chemist Jöns Jakob Berzelius and received access to his private laboratory, where he discovered the element lithium in 1817, during analysis of the mineral petalite.[1] The actual isolation of lithium metal would be done by others.

In 1818 and 1819, Arfwedson made a European journey, partly in the society of Berzelius. After coming home, Arfwedson built his own laboratory on his estate. He spent the larger part of his remaining life administering and multiplying his inherited wealth.

He was elected a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in 1821.

The rare mineral arfvedsonite was named after him.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Berzelius (1817). "Ein neues mineralisches Alkali und ein neues Metall" [A new mineral alkali and a new metal]. Journal für Chemie und Physik 21: 44–48.  From page 45: "Herr August Arfwedson, ein junger sehr verdienstvoller Chemiker, der seit einem Jahre in meinem Laboratorie arbeitet, fand bei einer Analyse des Petalits von Uto's Eisengrube, einen alkalischen Bestandtheil, … Wir haben es Lithion genannt, um dadurch auf seine erste Entdeckung im Mineralreich anzuspielen, da die beiden anderen erst in der organischen Natur entdeckt wurden. Sein Radical wird dann Lithium genannt werden." (Mr. August Arfwedson, a young, very meritorious chemist, who has worked in my laboratory for a year, found during an analysis of petalite from Uto's iron mine, an alkaline component … We've named it lithion, in order to allude thereby to its first discovery in the mineral realm, since the two others were first discovered in organic nature. Its radical will then be named "lithium".)

Further reading[edit]