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Who Discovered Sodium?

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Sodium, symbolized by “Na” on the periodic table, is one of the four alkali metals, meaning it is very soft and not extremely dense, much like lithium, another alkali metal. When thinking about sodium, most people think of table salt, or sodium chloride. The fact is, without sodium, living systems are unable to sustain themselves. This is because sodium plays a role in plant and animal metabolism, down to the very smallest parts of all cells, keeping them producing energy along with helping them pass information from one cell to another.

Sodium elementSodium’s symbol is Na and it has an atomic number of 11.

Then came along a British scientist by the name of Sir Humphry Davy

The discovery of sodium is attributed to a British scientist named Humphry Davy in 1806. He was able to isolate elemental sodium from sodium hydroxide via electrical current. Because of sodium’s highly reactive nature, it is not found in its isolated form on earth, but it can be found attached to an inert substance like chloride or hydroxide. Like all discoveries, while the actual discovery can be attributed to one scientist, figuring out different ways in which sodium may be used was, and is, more of a group effort of many scientists who were able to apply the use of sodium to many different industries. Also, like so many things that have been discovered, there are still scientists who work everyday to find new and ingenious ways sodium can be applied to everyday problems that plague mankind.

Sir Humphry DavySir Humphry Davy found sodium.

Many uses of sodium

Because of its numerous chemical properties, sodium is used by several industries including soap, textile, paper, metal, glass and petroleum industries, just to name a few. One might think that because of its volatility, sodium is not able to be of much use, but when combined with other, less reactive elements, sodium can actually be extremely useful. Just think about everyday items containing sodium such as borax, table salt and baking soda, to name a few of the many things sodium makes possible. Sodium is the sixth most abundant element on Earth, found in cohesion with various minerals including amphibole, halite and salt. In today’s society, sodium has many applications including the purification of metals and creating soap by mixing it with fatty acids.

More on Sodium: Facts about the common salt.