Indium Blog

Happy Birthday Hieronymus Theodor Richter: co-discoverer of indium metal

  • Indium Corporation

  • Today we celebrate the birthday of the co-discoverer of indium, Hieronymus Theodor Richter.


    Hieronymus Theodor Richter (pictured left) (21 November 1824 – 25 September 1898) was a German chemist who was born in Dresden. He co-discovered indium in 1863 with Ferdinand Reich while working at the Freiberg University of Mining and Technology. In 1875, he became the director of the school. He was born 21 November 1824 in Dresden and died 25 September 1898 in Freiberg, Saxony at the age of 73.



    Ferdinand Reich, (pictured right) German mineralogist and chemist (19 February 1799 Р27 April 1882), co-discovered indium in 1863 with Hieronymus Theodor Richter. Reich, who was born at Bernburg in Germany, studied at the University of G̦ttingen and taught at the Freiberg Mining Academy.



    In 1863, when indium was discovered, Ferdinand Reich was 64 years old. His assistant, Hieronymus Theodor Richter, was 39. Imagine that scene! Reich had obtained a yellow precipitate from some local zinc ores while he was checking sphalerite, a sulphide ore of zinc, with a spectrograph looking for thallium (which was discovered in 1861). Reich asked his assistant, Richter, to examine it spectroscopically (Reich was color blind, or could only see in whites and blacks. For this reason he needed Richter to examine the colors produced in reactions that they studied). Richter observed a bright blue stripe, unknown in any other spectrum, and distinct from the blue stripe of cesium. To this new element was given the name "indium", because of the bright indigo blue spectral stripe.

    Reich and Richter ended up isolating the indium, creating a small supply.

    At the 1867 World Fair an ingot of 0.5  kg (1.1 lb) was presented.

    It wasn’t until 1924 to 1933, when Daniel Gray (Utica, NY), while working under the direction of William Murray, created a process to extract and refine indium, that the commercial possibilities began to be explored. Dr. William S. Murray, the founder of Indium Corporation, received the first patent to process indium in 1926. The first commercial quantities of indium were discovered in Kingman, AZ in the same year.

    Their work led to the founding of The Indium Corporation in 1934.

    Today indium is used in a variety of applications: as a low melting solder in electronics applications, as a transparent, conductive coating (ITO) for touch screens, LCDs, and solar panels, and as well as a thermal interface in many of our electronics devices – to name a few.

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