Who Discovered Calcium?
Posted In: Chemical Elements.
Calcium is one of the few elements on the periodic table that was discovered several thousand years ago, and has been used in numerous ways since. These elements of antiquity (as some call this elite collection) are generally impossible to attribute to one or even one group of individuals as the first discoverer or discoverers because of the lack of written proof regarding such matters.
Romans used calcium. So can you credit them?
However, just because ancient Romans used calcium, known then as “calx”, in the first century as an integral part of the preparation of lime, doesn’t mean it was “discovered”. Most scientists agree that to be considered “discovered”, the subject in question must be isolated, explained and given a proper name. Additionally, the aforementioned properties must be written down and published so other academics can offer up any extra bits of wisdom they might have in regards to the subject in question.
So, who discovered it?
Humphry Davy, an English scientist, was the first person to isolate calcium in 1808 by mixing mercuric oxide and lime, and then performing electrolysis on the mixture. Davy got some of his ideas by experiments previously performed by two scientists, Pontin and Jöns Jacob Berzelius. Their experiment resulted in calcium amalgam, and was considered a success. Davy, using Pontin and Jöns Jacob Berzelius’ electrolysis technique was successful in isolating calcium alone. Davy went on to use his successful electrolysis technique to isolate many other substances including barium, magnesium and strontium, to name but a few.
By isolating calcium, we get to learn more about it
Giving credit where credit is due, Humphry Davy isolated calcium, which enabled further study of the alkaline metal, leading to the elucidation of its vital importance for the survival of humans, animals and plants. Before the isolation of the mineral, it was known to be an important and extremely useful ingredient in certain preparations used in myriad different areas.
Some uses of calcium
Calcium carbonate, for example, is used in the preparation of cement, mortar, lime and toothpaste. To demonstrate its versatility, it is also used in the manufacturing of torpedoes, fireworks and flares when present as calcium phosphide (Ca3P2). There are, as previously noted, many, many more ways calcium is used in collusion with other elements, but without the simple calcium ion itself, any other uses become moot, as calcium is vital to the sustenance of life.
More on Calcium: Facts about Calcium.