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12.  The "Omnivorous"

   That is what the prominent Soviet scientist A. E. Fersman called it. For the world knows no element more ferocious, nature has produced no substance chemically more active than the main character of this story. 

   You will never find it in nature in the native state, but only in the form of compounds. Its English name is fluorine from the Latin fluo meaning "flow". But its Russian name ftor is derived from the Greek for "destructive." This is a second, no less forceful term characterizing the main feature of this representative of the seventh group of the Mendeleyev Table.

   It has been said that "the path to free fluorine led through human tragedy." These are not just fine words. Man has discovered 104 elements. In the hunt for new simple substances researchers overcame a multitude of difficulties, knew many disappointments, became the victims of curious errors.

   The pursuit of traces of unknown elements has cost scientists a great deal of effort. Fluorine, the element fluorine in its free form, has cost lives.

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