Barium is a soft, highly reactive, silvery metal that is never found in its free form in nature. Barium is a chemical element represented by the symbol Ba and the atomic number 56. In nature this element is found in certain minerals such as barite and witherite. Barite (baryte) is the main commercial source of this element and it is estimated that the reserves of this mineral could be as high as 2 billion metric tons. About 8 million tons of this mineral are produced each year and China is the lead producer (50% of all production). Chemical compounds containing barium have been known since the Middle Ages, but the discovery of the element came after this time. Let’s find out who discovered barium.
Who discovered barium?
The first to correctly identify barium as a new element was Carl Wilhelm Scheele in 1774. He was the first to conclude that a new element was present in the mineral barite. He was unable to isolate the element, but did manage to isolate barium oxide. This was also isolated by Johan Gottlieb Gahn two years later. This substance was given the name barote, which was later changed to baryta. The first person to isolate this element was English Chemist Sir Humphry Davy in 1808. He named the new element barium after baryta and added the “ium” which was used to indicate a metallic element.
Did you know?
Barium sulfate is used together with x-rays to provide a clearer image of the digestive system. It is used with a number of medical imaging techniques to detect a variety of conditions associated with the esophagus, stomach, intestines and colon. Soluble salts of barium are toxic to humans, but barium sulfate is non-toxic because it is insoluble!