George Stimpson

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Which is correct aluminum or aluminium?

The silvery-white, light, ductile, malleable metallic element is called aluminum (a-LEW-min-um) in American and aluminium (al-yew-MINN-yum) in British usage. The existence of this element was [page 6] first recognized about 1812 by the English scientist Sir Humphrey Davy (1778-1829). He suggested aluminum as a name, but later changed it to aluminium. The term is derived from Latin alumen, "alum," a term usually applied to potassium aluminum sulphate. Just why aluminium should have prevailed in British and aluminum in American usage is hard to say, unless it was owing to the natural tendency in America to shorten words. It seems that the spelling aluminum was used as well as aluminium for a time in England, but the longer form finally prevailed because the termination harmonized with potassium, magnesium and other element names. Some writers, particularly in Canada, prefer aluminium as the scientific name of the element and aluminum as the name of commercial products made of it. Aluminum was first isolated in 1828 by the German chemist Friedrich Wöhler (1800-1882). Bauxite, the chief source of commercial aluminum, is so called because it was discovered in 1821 at Baux, France. In English this term is generally pronounced as if it were spelled boxite. Aluminum forms nearly 8 percent of the earth's crust and is the most abundant metallic element in the world. For a generation after its isolation the metal was more precious than gold. So far as known, the first articles made of aluminum were a set of table knives, forks and spoons made by a Paris jeweler for Napoleon III at a cost of $100 apiece. The same jeweler made an aluminum watch fob for the king of Siam.