This very down-to-earth word has a very lofty origin .
The supreme Egyptian god, Amen or Amon was Ammon to the Greeks.
He was worshipped at the temple of Jupiter Ammon situated at a Libyan oasis.
The dung and urine of camels that came to drink at the oasis, was collected and sal ammoniacus or ‘salt of Ammon’ was produced.
In the Middle Ages in Europe the horns and hoofs of oxen was heated ‘spirits of hartshorn’ was produced.
Antler of hart was ground down and used as a smelling salt, the strong ammonia smell being just what was needed to revive swooning ladies!
In 1782 the term ‘ammonia’ was coined for this colourless, pungent gas by the Swedish chemist, Torbern Bergman.
In the 19th century the principal source of ammonia was the distillation of coal.
Today most ammonia is produced by the Haber process, where nitrogen from the air and hydrogen from sea water are combined under high pressure.
Ammonia is an important refrigerant and is widely used in the chemical industries, especially in the manufacture of fertilizer, nitric acid, and explosives.