Published: 19/06/2008 00:00 - Updated: 28/11/2011 12:38

Strontian gets set for anniversary

RESIDENTS young and old at Strontian, on the Ardnamurchan Peninsula, are preparing to celebrate their village's claim to fame. They will gather next week at the local primary school hall to mark the 200th anniversary of Sir Humphry Davy's isolation of the chemical element Strontium from Strontianite, which was named after Strontian. The mineral strontianite had been discovered in the lead mines at Strontian in 1787. Strontium itself was discovered in 1798 by Thomas Charles Hope, and metallic strontium was first isolated by Davy in 1808 using electrolysis. Davy, inventor of the miners' safety lamp, revealed his discoveries at a lecture to the Royal Society of London on June 30, 1808. Strontian is the only place in the British Isles, and one of the very few places in the world, to have one of the hundred or so chemical elements named after it. And next week, this fact will be celebrated in style. Between 6pm and 9pm on Friday, June 27, at Strontian school hall, which doubles as the village hall, a presentation will be led by the pupils of the local primary school, including a "world premier" of The Strontium Song, an exhibition and display of artefacts and mineral samples and a quiz. The evening starts with a barbecue to encourage as many local residents as possible to attend. Strontian Primary head teacher Mindy Ogilvie said: "Our aim is to raise funds to set up a permanent plaque or cairn to commemorate our claim to fame and to provide a display cabinet in the school for all the mineral samples that we have collected." In 1800, the Italian scientist Alessandro Volta had introduced the first battery. Davy used this for what is now called electolysis and was able to isolate a series of substances for the first time potassium and sodium in 1807 and calcium, strontium, barium and magnesium the following year. In 1815, he was informed by Newcastle miners of the dangers they faced from methane gas. The gas often filled the mines, and could be sparked off by the candles they had in their helmets to light their work. The resulting fires and explosions caused many deaths. Davy separated the flame from the gas, and his "Davy" lamp later became widely used. s.taylor@lochaber-news.co.uk

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