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How Did Magnesium Get Its Name?



Magnesium was named for a region in Greece called Magnesia, which has an abundant supply of magnesium.

More Info: Magnesium is an element that is part of a group known as the alkaline earth metals that make up Group 2 on the Periodic Table of Elements. Magnesium’s chemical symbol is Mg, and it does not occur naturally as an element in the earth’s crust, but combined with other elements including oxygen and chlorine.

Magnesium the Element

Magnesium is the eighth most plentiful element in the earth’s crust and the third most common dissolved in the world’s seas in the form of magnesium chloride. People have known about and used magnesium for centuries. Ancient Greeks used magnesium for easing migraine headaches and as healing salts. Modern people use magnesium compounds and alloys in fireworks, to line ovens and furnaces and in medicine. Epsom salts is a popular magnesium compound.

Joseph Black Experiments with Magnesium

Joseph Black, an 18th century Scottish doctor studied and experimented with magnesium compounds, but he never discovered how to split them into pure magnesium. In 1808, Humphry Davy, an English chemist, finally isolated pure magnesium from its compounds by passing an electric current through magnesium oxide. He named his newly isolated element magnium, but that name caused some confusion. Another element, manganese also came from the same area in Greece, so Humphry Davy decided to rename his newly extracted element Magnesium instead of magnium. He wanted to be sure that everyone could tell his discovery, magnesium, from manganese!


Expert Opinion

Quote:   “Careful studies of magnesium and its compounds began in the middle 1700s. Scottish physician and chemist Joseph Black (1728-99) carried out some of the earliest experiments on magnesium compounds. He reported on his research in an article that became famous. Black is sometimes given credit for “discovering” magnesium because of his work with the element.”

Source:   Magnesium


Quote:   “Sir Humphry Davy discovered six elements in the table: boron, sodium, magnesium, potassium, calcium, and barium.”

Source:  Who discovered most of the elements on the periodic table?   Department of Physics and Astronomy Michigan State University



“Magnesium, Chemical Element – Overview, Discovery and naming, Physical properties, Chemical properties, Occurrence in nature, Isotopes.” Chemistry: Foundations and Applications. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Jan. 2011.

“Magnesium.” Chemistry Department. University of Wisconsin-Madison, n.d. Web. 7 Jan. 2011.

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