Magnesium, pronounced “mag-NEE-zhi-em,” is derived from Magnesia, a district in the region of Thessaly, Greece. Magnesium occurs naturally only in combination with other elements, and the metal is highly reactive.
Where Did Magnesium Come From?
Magnesium is the eighth most abundant element in the universe and the seventh most abundant element in the earth’s crust. Below is a timeline of magnesium’s discovery and isolation:
1618 – Farmer Henry Wicker noticed that the water he gave his cows had turned bitter but seemed to heal wounds. Epsom salts (magnesium sulphate) was discovered.
1755 – Joseph Black distinguishes magnesia (magnesium oxide) from lime (calcium oxide).
1789 – Thomas Henry reports findings of meerschaum (magnesium silicate).
1792 – Anton Rupprecht produced metallic magnesium by heating magnesia with charcoal.
1808 – Magnesium (as a pure metal) was first isolated by electrolysis of magnesium oxide by Humphry Davy.
1831 – Antoine-Alexandre-Brutus Bussy made a large amount of the metal by reacting magnesium chloride with potassium.
1833 – Michael Faraday produced magnesium metal by electrolysis of fused anhydrous magnesium chloride.
1852 – Robert Bunsen established a small laboratory for magnesium production.
1896 – Bunsen’s process was furthered by Griesheim-Elektron Chemische Fabrik, the world’s only magnesium producing facility until 1916.
1915 – Richard Willstatter won the Nobel Prize for noting magnesium as the central element of chlorophyll in plants.
Magnesium and the Human Body
The eleventh most abundant element in your body, magnesium contributes to the proper functioning of over 300 enzymes, which are necessary for neuromuscular contractions, cardiac function, and the regulation of the acid-alkaline balance in the body.
Magnesium supports the metabolism and utilization of carbohydrates, amino acids, and fats for energy. The mineral also helps the body to utilize calcium, phosphorus, sodium, and potassium, as well as various vitamins.
Magnesium rich foods include spinach, dark chocolate, avocado, banana, almonds, pumpkins seeds, and black beans.
As the technological revolution has developed, the need for magnesium in electronic and automotive industries has risen. While the USA, Russia, and Israel are key players in the production of magnesium, China is the largest producer of industrial magnesium.
Magnesium as an alloy is used in heavy-duty insulation, flares, aircraft, computers, ovens, in glass production, and more.
“The increasing use of magnesium alloys in numerous industrial fields, especially the aircraft industry during the war, merely focused attention upon this ultra light metal.”
– Edward E. Keso and Huber Self, Economic Geography
- Atomic Number: 12
- Atomic Weight: 24.305
- Melting Point: 923 K (650°C or 1202°F)
- Boiling Point: 1363 K (1090°C or 1994°F)
- Density: 1.74 grams per cubic centimeter
- Phase at Room Temperature: Solid
- Element Classification: Metal
- Period Number: 3
- Group Number: 2
- Group Name: Alkaline Earth Meta
“It’s Elemental.” It’s Elemental – The Element Magnesium, education.jlab.org/itselemental/ele012.html.
Keso, Edward E., and Huber Self. “The Magnesium Industry.” Economic Geography, 4th ed., vol. 25, Clark Univ., 1949, pp. 296–296.
“Magnesium – Element Information, Properties and Uses | Periodic Table.” Royal Society of Chemistry – Advancing Excellence in the Chemical Sciences, www.rsc.org/periodic-table/element/12/magnesium.