Glas-stoppered bottle containing vanadium, c 1890.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Vanadium, atomic number 23 in the periodic table, is a soft, ductile, silver-grey metal. In its properties it resembles chromium, and is used to add tensile strength to steel alloys. It resists attack by hydrochloric and sulphuric acids, saltwater or alkalis. Vanadium is not found uncombined in nature but occurs widely distributed in minerals. It was discovered by Spanish mineralogist Andres del Rio (1764-1849) and Swedish chemist Nils Sefstrom (1787-1845) independently of each other. Other chemists persuaded del Rio that he had not discovered a new element, so it now bears the name given to it by Sefstrom. This sample is from a collection of chemical elements bequeathed to the Science Museum, London, by Prince Louis Lucien Bonaparte (1813-1891).