Symbols of nations

First posted on FB 15/04/2020

One year ago today a huge fire took hold of the cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris. She has stood on the bank of the Seine for over 850 years and in the aftermath of the fire it became clear just how much this church building means to France. In contrast, the element gallium has been known for less than 150 years. It was discovered by a Frenchman, Paul Emil Lecoq de Boisbaudran who said he chose its name in honour of France (Gallia). There was, however, some speculation that his choice in fact represented the latinisation of his name: gallus is Latin for a cockerel, or coq.

Adjacent to gallium in the fourth period is germanium, also named for the country of its discovery by its discoverer Clemens Winkler and represented here by the most recognisable architectural symbol of Germany, the Brandenburg Gate. Originally conceived as a symbol of peace, the gate was used by Napoleon, Kaiser Wilhem II and Hitler as a triumphal arch. It stood in the no-man’s land between East and West Berlin and finally with the fall of the Berlin Wall has come to represent freedom and unity.

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