oxygen

Introduction

oxygen, gaseous chemical element; symbol O; at. no. 8; interval in which at. wt. ranges 15.99903–15.99977; m.p. −218.4°C; b.p. −182.962°C; density 1.429 grams per liter at STP; valence −2. The existence and properties of oxygen had been noted by many scientists before the announcement of its isolation by Priestley in 1774. Scheele had also succeeded in preparing oxygen from a number of substances, but publication of his findings was delayed until after that of Priestley's. As a result, Priestley and Scheele are credited with the discovery of the element independently. The fact that the gas is a component of the atmosphere was finally and definitely established by Lavoisier a few years later. In 1929, W. F. Giaque and H. L. Johnston announced the discovery of two isotopes of oxygen, of mass numbers 17 and 18.

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The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.