Barium, element 56, was discovered in 1808 by British chemist Humphry Davy. The name comes from the Greek βαρύς (barys), meaning heavy. Davy writes in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society in 1808:
I shall venture to denominate the metals from the alkaline earths, barium, strontium, calcium, and magnium.1
But the Greek root was in use to denote various substances made with the element before Davy isolated it. The name barytes was given to such substances. From William Hamilton’s 1791 translation of Claude Berthollet’s Elements of the Art of Dyeing:
Solutions of lime [...][and] barytes, are not decomposed.2
Barium has the chemical symbol Ba.
Copyright 1997-2014, by David Wilton