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1791, from French hydrogène, coined 1787 by G. de Morveau, Lavoisier, Berthollet, and Fourcroy from Greek hydr-, stem of hydros "water" (see water (n.1)) + French -gène "producing" (see -gen). So called because it forms water when exposed to oxygen. Nativized in Russian as vodorod; in German, it is wasserstoff, "water-stuff." An earlier name for it in English was Cavendish's inflammable air (1767). Hydrogen bomb first recorded 1947; shortened form H-bomb is from 1950.
hydrogen hy·dro·gen (hī'drə-jən)
A colorless, highly flammable gaseous element, the most abundant in the universe, used in ammonia and methanol synthesis, in the hydrogenation of organic materials, and as a reducing atmosphere. Atomic number 1; atomic weight 1.00797; melting point -259.34°C; boiling point -252.9°C; density at 0°C 0.08988 gram per liter; valence 1.
The lightest and most abundant element in the universe, normally consisting of one proton and one electron. It occurs in water in combination with oxygen, in most organic compounds, and in small amounts in the atmosphere as a gaseous mixture of its three isotopes (protium, deuterium, and tritium) in the colorless, odorless compound H2. Hydrogen atoms are relatively electropositive and form hydrogen bonds with electronegative atoms. In the Sun and other stars, the conversion of hydrogen into helium by nuclear fusion produces heat and light. Hydrogen is used to make rocket fuel, synthetic ammonia, and methanol, to hydrogenate fats and oils, and to refine petroleum. The development of physical theories of electron orbitals in hydrogen was important in the development of quantum mechanics. Atomic number 1; atomic weight 1.00794; melting point -259.14°C; boiling point -252.8°C; density at 0°C 0.08987 gram per liter; valence 1. See Periodic Table. See Note at oxygen.
The lightest chemical element; its symbol is H. Hydrogen normally consists of a single electron in orbit around a nucleus made up of a single proton. It is usually found as a gas and has several uses as a fuel.
Note: Hydrogen atoms are combined to form helium atoms in fusion reactions in stars and in hydrogen bombs, which release huge amounts of energy. Hydrogen also burns rapidly, producing water as it combines with oxygen (see H<sub>8</sub>O and oxidation).
Note: For a time, hydrogen was frequently used to fill blimps and dirigibles because of its extremely low weight. In 1937, however, the hydrogen in the dirigible Hindenburg caught fire, and many of the passengers and crew were killed. Since that time, helium has been widely preferred to hydrogen for use in airships; it is not as buoyant (see buoyancy) or cheap as hydrogen, but, being an inert gas, it does not burn.
Note: Because there is so much hydrogen in stars, it is by far the most abundant element in the universe.