Vanadium was discovered twice. Andrés Manuel del Río discovered it in 1801 and wanted to call it erythronium (“the red element”), but French chemists believed he found an impure chromium ore. Friedrich Wöhler, the father of organic chemistry, was close to discovering vanadium in 1831, but did not fully pursue it. Nils Gabriel Sefström finally (re)discovered it in 1831. He named it after the Norse goddess of beauty – Vanadis, who is today better known as Freya. In modern day vanadium compounds are used in batteries, catalysis and, of course, steel manufacture. Marine organisms like algae and sea squirts also use it, for bio-catalysis. The mushroom fly agaric stores it in a compound called amavadin. Rats need it to grow. We do not know if it is an essential nutrient for humans, but large amounts of its compounds are toxic.
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