It’s elementary …


Ride report by Michael Capone
24 May 2020

Today we made a long-overdue pilgrimage by bike to Manaccan, where titanium was first discovered. A titanium plaque at the site commemorates Reverend William Gregor, the Vicar of Creed Parish, who first identified the new element in 1791. While visiting his friend, the Vicar of Manaccan, Gregor noticed black sand in the Leat of Tregonwell Mill that was attracted to a magnet. A keen amateur geologist, Gregor took a sample home and analyzed it. He discovered that the sand contained an iron oxide, which accounted for its attraction to a magnet, as well as the oxide of another previously unknown metal, which he called menachanite. A few years later Martin Heinrich Klaproth, a Prussian chemist, also identified the new element, which he called titanium, after the Titans of Greek mythology. When Klaproth later heard about Gregor’s observation, he duly credited the Cornishman with the discovery, but the name titanium stuck. So sadly, Manaccan was deprived of the honour of lending its name to the new element. (By contrast, no fewer than four elements are named after Ytterby, a small village in Sweden: yttrium (Y), ytterbium (Yb), erbium (Er) and terbium (Tb)). Pure metallic titanium was not prepared until 1910.

Our mission was to take a photo of my titanium bike beneath the plaque.


The plaque reads:

This titanium plaque commemorates the identification of the metal menachanite, later called titanium, by the Reverend William Gregor in the Leat of Tregonwell Mill, in the Parish of Manaccan in Meneage in 1791.

 It also acknowledges the work of Professor Per-Ingvar Brånemark, MD, PhD of Göteborg, Sweden, who in the 20th century pioneered the use of titanium in reconstructive surgery allowing the permanent attachment of artificial teeth and limbs directly to bone by osseointegration.

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