The word Helium came from the Greek word Helios meaning the sun. The non-inflammable helium gas was first discovered by scientists in Indiana on the sun during the total eclipse of August 18, 1869. Then in 1895, scarce amount of helium was discovered on earth in uranium minerals. In 1903, larger amounts were discovered in American natural gas wells (some 718 billion cubic feet had been reported in 1979 and could be found in places such as Kensas, Texas, Utah, New Mexico, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Colorado). Helium could be extracted by liquefying the natural gas, leaving the helium in gaseous form. The light-weight helium gas which would not burn could be used to fill children's balloons or as a lifting gas for airships. It was pointed out the Hindenburg did not use helium in 1937, but the inflammable hydrogen. 

Roughly 78% of a breath of air contained nitrogen and the other 21% oxygen which the human body relied on as fuel energy. Helium accounted for the rest but human lungs were said often ignored helium in favor of oxygen, "the very active chemical that cells use as fuel to carry on their life processes." The nitrogen was said not important to the body and could be replaced by another natural gas. "It is more than 3 times lighter than nitrogen and easier to breathe. Special breathing mixtures in which helium is substituted for nitrogen are used to relieve asthmatic and bronchial patients," it was explained. "However, lots of helium does strange things to the vocal cords. It sends the voice up into a high, squeaky range and reduces its purring resonance. Apart from this temporary side effect, helium and the human body seem to ignore each other. 

"If helium is mixed with oxygen instead of nitrogen, the molecular weight of the air is greatly reduced because helium is many times lighter than nitrogen. When a diver absorbs nitrogen from the air it is hard to eliminate and sometimes forms big bubbles. Helium, being lighter, finds its way out of the body easier. In 1925, the Bureau of Mines demonstrated how helium gas, mixed with oxygen, allowed deep sea divers to go to greater depths. With the aid of helium-oxygen mixtures, U.S. navy divers salvaged the U.S. submarine S-51, in July 1926, from 132 feet of water. Nitrogen tends to dissolve and under the immense pressure of deep water it forms bubbles in the blood stream. This causes agonizing cramps called 'the bends'. Unless the sufferer spends hours in a special decompression chamber, this deep-water disease may be fatal."

To meet demands, the United States produced nearly 140 million cubic feet of helium in 1944. During the Cold War, it was reported in 1958, some 70% of all helium production had been allocated to national defense, another 20% to allied government programs and only 10% would be available for strictly civilian use. One observer remarked, "And, wouldn't you know, nature always mixes the rare and stubborn gas with a wide assortment of other gases." The National Geographic Society made the observation in 1936, "Colorless, tasteless, odorless helium has a temperament all its own. It has no savage tendency to be destructive, for it is non-inflammable and non-poisonous. Being a monatomic gas, its hermit nature keeps each individual particle, or atom, aloof from its fellows.

"Helium is so haughty, in fact, that it refuses to mix with other elements unless shocked or jolted into a combination by an electric discharge. Ordinarily lazy and inert, helium's only exercise is to drift heavenward when released, being the lightest known gas except hydrogen, and to indulge in the lazy sport of conducting electricity, in which it can be beaten only by neon. But it makes less effort to struggle through rubberized fabric than does hydrogen, thereby winning a commercial advantage, for less of it is lost from a balloon. 

"Helium is stubbornly opposed to change, remaining the same at low temperatures which make rubber as brittle as glass. This latter quality aids man in separating helium from natural gas...Its power to conduct electricity gives helium potential uses…Its main commercial use now (back in 1936) is in aeronautics, with possibilities of development in food preservation, fireproofing, refrigeration, and cooling electric motors. It might also be employed in air conditioning for people who must work under great pressure, as in deep-sea diving, caisson work, and tunnelling. Scientists find helium helpful as a standard wavelength in studies with the spectroscope and as a medium for low temperature studies. In an atmosphere of helium, hot metals can be worked without the corrosion they suffer under normal conditions."

It was reported in June 1950 that scientists were creating a special type of helium atmosphere and hermetically sealed glass case to protect the originals of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence against ultraviolet rays and variations in temperature. "The originals of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence are traditionally kept in the Library of Congress, but in 1947 and 1948 they were among the documents aboard the Freedom Train which toured the nation. The train visited Milwaukee and other Wisconsin cities in June and July of 1948."  

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