Ekeberg, Anders Gustaf

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Ekeberg, Anders Gustaf

(b. Stockholm, Sweden, 15 January 1767; d. Uppsala, Sweden, 11 February 1813)

chemistry, mineralogy.

Ekeberg studied in Uppsala, Greifswald, and Berlin from 1784 to 1790. He worked at the Council of Mining in 1794 and in the same year became assistant professor of chemistry at the University of Uppsala. In 1799 he became associate professor and a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Science.

While in Greifswald, Ekeberg had studied under Christian Ehrenfried Weigel, the follower and German translator of Lavoisier. That the New Chemistry was introduced into Germany at such an early date was undoubtedly due to Weigel; as Weigel’s enthusiastic pupil, Ekeberg in his turn helped to spread it northward.

Ekeberg’s article “Om Chemiska Vetenskapens närvarande skick” (“On the Present State of the Chemical Science”), published in 1795, was the first attempt to present the antiphlogiston theory in Sweden. Ekeberg consolidated his position with a pamphlet, published the same year, entitled Försöktill Svensk nomenklatur för Chemien... (“An Attempt Toward a Swedish Nomenclature for Chemistry”), in which the terminology introduced was Lavoisier’s. Both of these outspokenly antiphlogistic works were published anonymously because Ekeberg was anxious to avoid conflicts with Johan Afzelius, his superior in Uppsala, who distrusted the new theories.

Ekeberg was an extraordinarily capable analytic chemist. Shortly after taking up his duties at Uppsala, probably about 1795–1796, he became interested in a remarkable mineral quarried in Ytterby in Sweden; he made a thorough investigation of it and was thus able in 1797 to confirm Gadolin’s earlier discovery of yttria. After further prolonged research he announced in 1802 that he had found yttria in a new mineral from Ytterby which also contained a hitherto unknown heavy metal. Ekeberg was the first to define this heavy metal precisely. On the basis of the inability of its oxide to combine with even the smallest particle of acid—even when it was submerged in it— Ekeberg compared the new metal to Tantalus and called it “tantalum.”

In addition to his scientific ability Ekeberg possessed a considerable literary talent which he demonstrated in his younger years. He suffered poor health throughout his life, however, and when this was aggravated by an impairment of vision and hearing, his vitality decreased and his promising scientific career came to a premature end.


I. Original Works. Ekeberg’s publications include “Om Chemisks Vetenskapens nävarande skick,” in Litteratur tidning för år 1705, 1 (1795), 91–104; Försök till Svensk Nomenklatur för chemien, lampad efter de sednasts uptäckterne (Uppsala, 1795); “Ytterligare undersökningar af den svart stenarten från Ytterby och den däre fundne egna jord,” in Kongliga Vetenskaps Academiens nya Handlingar, 18 (1797), 156–164; “Uplysning om ytter-jordens egenskaper, i synnerhet i jämförelse med beryll-jorden: Om de fossilier hvari förstnämnde jord innehålles, samt om en ny uptäckt kroop af metallisk natur. Tantalum,” ibid., 23 (1802), 68–73; “Chemisk undersökning af et hårdt oktaedriskt kristalliseradt fossil ifrån Fahlun,” in Afhandlingar i fysik, kemi och mineralogi, 1 (1806), 84–90; and “Undersökning af ett natronhaltig fossl ifrån Hesselkulla,” ibid. (1807), 144–153.

II. Secondary Literature. On Ekeberg’ life and work see “Anders Gustaf Ekebergs biographi,” in Kondliga Vetenskaps Academiens Handlingar, 3rd ser. (1813), 276–279; and Arne Westgren, “Anders Gustaf Ekebergs förelänsningar 1805–1811,” in The Svedberg (Uppsala, 1944).

Uno Boklund