Ytterby – a Landmark for the History of Chemistry

When it comes to the discovery of elements on the periodic table, you can divide the world into two parts‚ÄĒYtterby, and everywhere else. Ytterby (“itt-ter-bee”) is a village on a little island outside of Stockholm. But no place on earth has been more important to the periodic table. A few places‚ÄĒif you count Latin names‚ÄĒcan brag that two elements have been named for them. Ytterby has four. And it could have had more, since three other elements can trace their discovery to a modest mine that once supported the community there. (1)


1. The quarry in the tiny village of Ytterby (2)

The Ytterby mine opened not to find new elements (no money in that) but to find a mineral called feldspar. Feldspar is crucial for making Chinese porcelain, which Europeans had coveted since the days of Marco Polo in the 1300s. Two European chemists finally figured out how to make porcelain on their own circa 1700. (One of the duo, a teenager, had been condemned to death as a swindler and failed royal alchemist; he promised to discover the secrets of porcelain in exchange for his life, and succeeded.) Swedes liked porcelain because it made better stoves to warm their homes than iron did, and the mine ( Ytterby gruvain Swedish) opened in the late 1700s to cash in on the demand.

The chemist Lieutenant Carl Axel Arrhenius (1757-1824), student of the Swedish chemist Berzelius, found in 1787 in the dumps of the Ytterby quarry (for information on Ytterby and its quarry, see below) an interesting find, an exceptionally heavy piece of black broken rock. He named it ytterbite after the location with the standard suffix -ite added to indicate a mineral. This stone was sent to, among others, Johan Gadolin (1760-1852), professor at Åbo University. (3)

Gadolin found that the “black stone of Ytterby” was composed of 38% of a new “earth type” (“earths” are compounds of elements, usually oxides). He concluded his analysis in 1794 and named this new earth¬†ytterbia. His analysis was confirmed three years (1797) later when Anders Gustaf Ekeberg (1767-1813) analysed a larger sample. Ekeberg shortened the name to¬†yttria. In the decades after Antoine Lavoisier developed the new chemistry built on the concept that earths could be reduced to their elements, the discovery of a new earth (with name ending in “a”) was regarded as equivalent to discovering the element within. Thus the element reducible from the earth¬†yttria¬†would be Yttrium.

However, yttria was in fact it was a mixture of a number of metal oxides. In 1843, Carl Gustav Mosander (1797-1858) separated yttria into three parts, one of which kept the original name:

  1. Yttria (with a colorless salt and colorless oxyde),
  2. Erbia (yellow oxyde, colorless salt), and
  3. Terbia (rose oxyde, red salt).
    (Later Erbia and Terbia were interchanged).


2. The flow chart of the discovery of the elements from ‘yttrium” and ”Ceria”(3)


1. (January 2015.)


3. (January 2015.)


Lanthanides and homeopathy



Homeopathy, homeopathy… I am going to bet, I have already heard this word before…but where? At which occasion? Circumstances? And why do they involve lanthanides in it? How these two can be related to each other? Hmm, interesting….let’s find out something more!

But before coming to the point, it would be a good option to remind or even better, to get to know, what the homeopathy is and how we get deal with it, right? So, here we go: Have you ever heard something like ‚Äúlike cures like‚ÄĚ (1)? No? Me either! But now I can tell you that is a general idea of the homeopathy. From a medical point of view, homeopathy is a philosophy (oh! this explains this term‚Ķ) and practice, based on the assumption that a body can be healed by itself‚Ķ now I am looking around myself, wondering whether I possess some superpowers that I have not known about before, and trying to find a connection to any of the knowing superheroes (sorry, I was growing up in the times of blue, little guys who were used to live in the mashrooms, and some happy bears, living in the clouds and driving hovercraft or similar, so coming up with a precise relation is rather difficult here‚Ķ). But then, I am reading further and what I am learning just pushes me down and disappoints, because in the end I see, I am not that special‚Ķmaybe even better, fame is a big problem nowadays.

Homeopathy is a smooth, gentle, holistic way of healing. It is concentrated on a person as an individual, treating some specific physical and emotional symptoms. In order to stimulate a body‚Äôs own healing process, a remedy closest to individual symptoms are prescribed (2). The homeopathic treatment was invented by a German physician, Samuel Christian Hahnemann (1755-1843), who had become dissatisfied with the medicine of those times. Many, many years Hahnemann‚Äôs search in improving medicine was unsuccessful, until he took a small amount of cinchona bark, which contains quinine, the drug used to treat malaria, and developed the symptoms of malaria. From this observation he developed homeopathy‚Äôs first law, ‚Äúlet likes be cured by likes‚ÄĚ – drugs which cause specific symptoms can be used to cure diseases which cause the same symptoms (3). People have used homeopathy to maintain health and treat a wide range of long-term illnesses, such as allergies or depression, but also minor injuries.

How it is related to the use of lanthanides? Oh, you will be surprised‚Ķ Homeopathic remedies derived from the elements of the Periodic Table are needed when we feel something is lacking in the structure of our lives. Lanthanides and some of their compounds have recently entered into regular use in homeopathic medicine and many homeopathic practices. The introduction of lanthanides and their salts into clinical use was based on the inspired, or rather genius idea of deriving their homeopathic potential from the chemical properties of lanthanides as they appeared in the classical periodic system. They are chemically very similar and generally occur together, but they are never found in their pure form, so for a long time have remained hidden. With atomic numbers ranging from 57 to 71, the lanthanides lie beyond silver (47) and precede gold (79), and are usually printed at the bottom of the most common periodic tables. The full homeopathic significance of this position becomes evident after reading ‚ÄúThe secret of Lanthanides‚ÄĚ by Jan Scholten, where the explanation of the framework of elements surrounding the rare earths is discussed. The book describes the use of the Lanthanides and their salts in health and disease. It describes persons in a Lanthanide state and the cure with homeopathic potencies. In 79 case histories, the author shows how the therapeutic results in many contemporary illnesses that are very difficult to treat traditionally can be improved by these remedies: auto-immune disease, migraine, dyslexia, etc..


In general, the seven rows and eighteen columns or stages of the periodic table of the elements are described in great detail as to their fundamental, distinguishing characteristics with respect to specific mental, emotional, physical, and general symptoms and themes. According to Scholten the 4th, 5th and 6th horizontal rows (‚Äúseries‚ÄĚ) in the periodic table reflect problems related to personal life performance. The 4th row is known as the Copper series and is task-oriented. The 5th row is the Silver series and is related to possibility of speaking and writing, creative expression and new ideas. The 6th row is the Gold series, assigned to power, influence and responsibility. Lanthanides placed in 3rd column are associated with autonomy and self-actualization, which in combination with the 1st and 2nd column may result in confusion, irresolution and indecision (4). They may improve intuition and sensitivity to the most essential things in our lives, but also promote a sense of internal power to influence different live aspects and thus, help in taking up life-changing decisions without hesitation. In the end we feel more reflective, peaceful, calm and self-actualised.

Homeopaths who know Lanthanides, appreciate them for their strength and depth of therapeutic action, and for that of the often compared even with the feats of Hercules – Nemean Lion, Hydra Lerneyskaya (won it with his nephew Iolaya), wild boar Erimanfsky, Kirineyskaya deer, birds Stimfaliyskie (Samarium), Augean stables (victory by force of mind), the Cretan bull (the Minotaur), the horses of Diomedes, a belt Hippolyta (Hippolytus – the queen of the Amazons), the cows of Geryon, the apples of Hesperides (forced, as a Titanium Atlanta to keep on his shoulders the firmament), hell dog Cerberus, Rab omphalitis (award in a contest of archers was Iola – daughter of King Evrita, but victory in the race did not give Hercules her…). At the end of the story of Hercules soul is purified, becomes immortal, and he is on Mount Olympus, which is reconciled with Hera (5).

The Lanthanides will soon become just as irreplaceable for modern medicine as they have become in modern technology. A major theme of these elements is self-determination and the inner need for independence, which also reflects a major issue of the present time.


Find out more at:

(1)¬†¬† Homeopathy ‚Äď overview:

(2)   Plant and Chemical Homeopathy

(3)   Homeopathy:

(4)   Lanthanides and self-actualization:

(5)¬†¬† Rare Earth Elements ‚Äď Lanthanides:



The little pig and the rare earths

The little pig and the rare earths


Dear reader,

Have you ever thought that there could be a relation between how fat a pig is and the use of rare earth compounds as feed additives?, well, today we are going to tell you how the pork you had some time ago got fat!

I have to confess that I never thought about that relation until I attended the conference of Mr. Stefan Pirker (Treibacher Industrie AG) on ‚ÄúIndustrial applications of the rare earths‚ÄĚ at the EREAN summer school in Leuven. During his presentation, Mr. Pirker gave us an interesting review of the different applications that involve the use of rare earth elements and one of the most surprising ones was to learn that some rare earth compounds can be used as feed additives.

It is known that the veterinary pharmaceutical industry has already developed many products that contain different compounds, such as calcium gluconate and calcium phosphate for the treatment of calcium deficiency in poultry, or the use of sodium selenite combined with potassium iodide and zinc sulfate to help bulls and horses during their reproduction processes. When it comes to fattening and growing of animals what usually comes to our minds is the use of antibiotics, which were banned (completely) by the European Union in 2006, but nowadays there are plenty of alternatives and one of them is the use of rare earth compounds.

The fatter the better… (Better for the people, not for the animals)

The companies that make a profit from animals are always looking strategies and food supplements that allow the production of bigger quantities of meat at a reasonable and competitive price without sacrificing its quality.  Indeed, rare-earth compounds have been successfully used for the weight gaining of different animals as we can see in the following tables:

Table 1. Effects on pigs (Taken from the thesis: ‚ÄúRare Earth Elements in Agriculture with Emphasis on Animal Husbandry‚ÄĚ by Kerstin Redling, Munich, 2006.)


Table 2. Effects on poultry (Taken from the thesis: ‚ÄúRare Earth Elements in Agriculture with Emphasis on Animal Husbandry‚ÄĚ by Kerstin Redling, Munich, 2006.)


As it can be seen on both tables, the use of rare earth salts in feed additives can be beneficial for the body weight gain (BWG) of pigs and poultry. It has also been stated that the use of only lanthanum can be beneficial as well. Besides this, positive BWG have been observed not only in pigs and poultry, but also in rats. Ruminants and fish have shown controversial results since it has been reported during Chinese trials that they can also gain weight when rare earths are employed, but in the European trials it has been observed the opposite.[1] One of the reasons why these differences are observed is because the way the pigs and the poultry are kept in Europe differs from the conditions in which the animals are kept in China. Table 2 also indicates that there is a dose dependency, for instance no effects were observed when rare earths were applied at doses of 195 mg/kg.

The mechanism that explains the possibility for some animals to gain weight via the intake of rare earths has not been completely elucidated yet. Indeed, despite all the different propositions, so far there is no agreement in which mechanism unequivocally conduces to this behavior.

Perhaps a more controversial concern is the toxicity that the added rare earths can have on the animals that take such feed additives and the humans that consume the meat from such animals. Reports from Chinese and European literature agreed with the fact that the toxicity of the rare earths is highly dependent on the way the rare earths are administered to the animal, besides that, the toxicity also depends on the kind of rare earth salt that is employed. The good news are that oral toxicity of these compounds has been considered to be low, therefore there are not so many concerns about the hazardous effects that they can have in the animal, besides it, they are not accumulated in the animal’s body.

So, next time you eat a piece of bacon you can think about your favorite rare earth element! Yay!

If you are a vegetarian or a vegan, you can take a rest, enjoy your meal and stop thinking for a while about rare earths and think about the soy you are consuming (Ethical dilemma, Green choices).

If you want to read more, you can have a look on the thesis of Kerstin Redling. She did a good research on this topic and her work is very interesting and complete.

[1]¬†Rare Earth Elements in Agriculture with Emphasis on Animal Husbandry‚ÄĚ by Kersting Redling, Munich, 2006.)