Discovery and development of tungsten | History of Tungsten


The history of tungsten dates back to the 17th century. At that time, miners in the Erzgebirge Mountains of Saxony, Germany, noticed that some of the ore would interfere with the reduction of cassiterite and produce slag. The miners gave the mines some German nicknames: “wolfert” and “wolfrahm”.

Axel Fredrik Cronstedt
Axel Fredrik Cronstedt

In 1758, the Swedish chemist and mineralogist Axel Fredrik Cronstedt discovered a mineral called “tungsten”, which means “heavy stone” in Swedish. He was convinced that this mineral contained an element that had not yet been discovered.


Carl Wilhelm Scheele
Carl Wilhelm Scheele

In 1781, the Swedish chemist Carl Wilhelm Scheele discovered the scheelite and extracted tungstic acid from it. He thus believed that a new metal may be extracted by reducing tungstic acid.


In 1783, Juan José Elhuyar Lubize and the Fausto Elhuyar also extracted tungstic acid from the wolframite. Later that year, they obtained tungsten powder for the first time by reduction of this acid with charcoal.

Later, Jöns Jacob Berzelius and Friedrich Wöhler gave the metal a new name: wolfram, but the name is more recognized in Germany and Scandinavia, while the United Kingdom, the United States and other English speaking countries still prefer the name “tungsten”.

 Robert Dickinson Oxland
Robert Dickinson Oxland

In 1841, the chemist Robert Dickinson Oxland obtained the British patent for the production of sodium tungstate, tungstic acid and metal tungsten, which was a major advance in the history of tungsten modern chemistry, opening the path for the industrial production of tungsten.


As early as the 1850s, chemists noticed that the addition of tungsten to steel would have an impact on the properties of steel. However, it was not until the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century that tungsten steel began mass production and widespread application. Steel with a tungsten content of 20% was first exhibited at the Paris World’s Fair in 1900. The production of this steel marks a major technological advancement in the field of metal cutting.

In 1900, the Russian inventor А.Н.Ладыгин first proposed the application of tungsten to lighting bulbs. In 1903, William D. Coolidge of the United States made tungsten filaments by tungsten powder pressing, remelting, swaging, and wire drawing. The appearance of tungsten wire promoted the development of the lighting industry. This method is also considered to be the beginning of modern metal powder production. In 1909, Кулидж created the powder metallurgy method, which uses a pressure processing process and makes tungsten widely used in electric vacuum technology.

tungsten filaments
tungsten filaments

In 1925, Schroulter obtained the US patent for the invention of tungsten carbide cobalt carbide. This patented method was first used in Europe for industrial production in 1926, which is the basis of the modern tungsten industry production process. From 1927 to 1928, chemists developed hard alloys with tungsten carbide as the main component, which is an important stage in the industrial history of tungsten. These cemented carbides are widely used in modern technology due to their good properties.

We have opened a history column, aiming at introducing the discovery of different kinds of metals. If you are a metal lover or history lover, you can follow our website. For previous posts of this column please search the keyword “history”.

Stanford Advanced Materials (SAM) Corporation is a global sputtering target manufacturing company. Please visit for more information.

Author: SAM Sputter Targets

Stanford Advanced Materials (SAM) Corporation is a global supplier of various sputtering targets such as metals, alloys, oxides, ceramic materials.

7 thoughts on “Discovery and development of tungsten | History of Tungsten”

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