barium

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.


1Oxford English Dictionary, barium, 2nd Edition, 1989, Oxford University Press, accessed 12 October 2009, http://dictionary.oed.com/cgi/entry/50017669.

2Oxford English Dictionary, barytes, 2nd Edition, 1989, Oxford University Press, accessed 12 October 2009, http://dictionary.oed.com/cgi/entry/50017961

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