Sunday, July 21, 2013

Georg Brandt

Georg Brandt was born on July 21, 1694 in Riddarhyttan, Sweden. His father, Jurgen Brandt, was a metalworker and an apothecary. Growing up he assisted his father with his metalwork projects and he became interested in it. Brandt attended Uppsala University and worked for the council of mines. In 1721 he traveled to Leiden where he worked in the laboratory of Herman Boerhaave for three years. There he studied chemistry and medicine. He earned a medical doctorate from the University of Rheims in 1726. When he returned home to Sweden he was made the director of laboratory of the Council of Mines. Brandt was named warden of the Royal Mint in 1730. He became an associate member of the council of mines in 1747 and a full member in 1750.

Brandt's research involved investigating metals. He coined the term semi-metals to describe elements that have both metal and non-metal characteristics. These elements are now called metalloids. Metaloids are the elements in the region between metal and non-metal elements on the periodic table (see here) In 1733 he investigated arsenic and its compounds. In 1735 he postulated that the blue color in an ore known as smalt was due to an unknown metal or semi-metal. In 1742 he was able to isolate this unknown blue metal which he named cobalt, taking the name from the old Teutonic word kobold meaning demon. Cobalt is atomic number 27 and is represented by the chemical symbol Co.

Brandt's later research involved using hot acid solutions to dissolve gold. Brandt's later publications dealt with criticism of the alchemical belief that other "base" metals could be transformed into gold. It has been said that he did more than any other chemist to clarify that transmutation of other metals into gold was impossible and that claims of alchemists that they could create gold from other metals were false.

Brandt died on April 29, 1768 in Stockholm, Sweden of prostate cancer.


Morris, Richard; The Last Sorcerers; Joseph Henry Press; 2003

"Brandt, Georg" in Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography; Charles Scribner's Sons; 2008

Georg Brandt Wikipedia Entry


  1. Thank you for the information. I am wondering about the source for the image you have attached. I'm a little unsure about locating a true image of Mr. Brandt because he died before the invention of the photograph. Any help would be appreciated!

  2. I usually get my images from Wikipedia. Looking the history of the Wikipedia page it looks like they removed their image. The image will be removed. Thank you for your help.