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Oxygen and its compounds play a key role in many of the important processes of life andindustry Oxygen in the biosphere is essential in the processes of respiration andmetabolism the means by which animals derive the energy needed to sustain lifeFurthermore oxygen is the most abundant element at the surface of the Earth In combinedform it is found in ores earths rocks and gemstones as well as in all livingorganismsOxygen is a gaseous chemical element in Group VA of the periodic table The chemicalsymbol for atomic oxygen is O its atomic number is 8 and its atomic weight is 159994Elemental oxygen is known principally in the gaseous form as the diatomic molecule whichmakes up 2095 of the volume of dry air Diatomic oxygen is colorless odorless andtastelessTwo 18th-century scientists share the credit for first isolating elemental oxygen JosephPRIESTLEY 1733-1804 an English clergyman who was employed as a literary companion toLord Shelburne at the time of his most significant experimental work and Carl WilhelmSCHEELE 1742-86 a Swedish pharmacist and chemist It is generally believed that Scheelewas the first to isolate oxygen but that Priestley who independently achieved theisolation of oxygen somewhat later was the first to publicly announce his findingsThe interpretation of the findings of Priestley and the resultant clarification of thenature of oxygen as an element was accomplished by the French scientist Antoine-LaurentLAVOISIER 1743-94 Lavoisiers experimental work which extended and improved uponPriestleys experiments was principally responsible for the understanding of COMBUSTIONand the establishment of the law of conservation of matterLavoisier gave oxygen its name which is derived from two Greek words that mean acidformer Lavoisier held the mistaken idea that oxides when dissolved in water wouldform only acids It is true that some oxides when dissolved in water do form acids forexample sulfur dioxide forms sulfurous acid Some oxides however such as sodium oxidedissolve in water to form bases as in the reaction to form sodium hydroxide thereforeoxygen was actually inappropriately namedNATURAL OCCURRENCEOxygen is formed
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