The Confused Case of Aluminium Vs Aluminum

I would always remain confused about the right spelling of the Earth’s Most Abundant Metallic Element – Aluminium or Aluminum. What is the difference? Is it only the Brit Vs American way of writing or is there anything more science to it? I looked into the periodic table to seek an answer but did not manage to find an answer. The question kept brewing in my head: Why do the Americans use one “i” and the British two for this word?

I finally googled to find a satisfactory answer and this is what I came across:

In 1808 Sir Humphry Davy, the British chemist who discovered the metal, named it “alumium.” With just one “i” and an “ium” ending, it straddled the two competing versions we have today.

Four years later, however, Davy changed his mind and gave the metal the name “aluminum” (yup, the one-”i” American version). In his book Elements of Chemical Philosophy, published in 1812, Davy wrote, “As yet Aluminum has not been obtained in a perfectly free state. “

But later that same year other scientists decided “aluminum” didn’t sound sufficiently Latin, so they began calling it “aluminium.” Here’s a quote from the Quarterly Review: “Aluminium, for so we shall take the liberty of writing the word, in preference to aluminum, which has a less classical sound.”

At any rate, throughout the 19th century, both “aluminum” and “aluminium” could be found in the US as well as in Britain, though the “ium” ending was predominant in British English.

This was such a rare metal in the 1800s, though, that we’re not talking about a common household word; it was mainly known among scientists.

Only at the turn of the century, when production on a large scale became practical, did the name of the metal start becoming a familiar word. And that’s when Americans – after some to-ing and fro-ing, of course – began to clearly prefer the simpler “aluminum” (which had been favored, incidentally, by Noah Webster).

Eventually “aluminum” became the standard name for the metal in North America and was officially adopted in the 1920s by the American Chemical Society.

Elsewhere, though, scientists generally use “aluminium.” The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry uses “aluminium” as the standard international spelling but also recognizes “aluminum” as a variant.

62nd Indian Foundry Congress of IIF

To know more about Earth’s Most Abundant Metallic Element – Aluminium pay a visit to the 62nd Indian Foundry Congress.


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