molybdenum

Molybdenum, element 42, takes its name from the Latin molybdaena, a name for a variety of ores containing either lead or molybdenum. In its natural state, molybdenum resembles and has many of the properties of lead and graphite. It’s ultimately from the Greek μολύβδαινα, molubdaina, meaning lead ore or an angler’s plummet.1

Swedish chemist Carl Wilhelm Scheele was, in 1778, the first to recognize that molybdenum was an independent element and not a form of lead, and in 1782 another Swedish chemist, Peter Jacob Hjelm, was the first to isolate it. The first use of molybdenum in English was in George Pearson’s 1794 A Translation of the Table of Chemical Nomenclature.2 English use of molybdena to refer to various lead ores is somewhat older, dating to the mid-17th century.

Molybdenum has the chemical symbol Mo.


1Oxford English Dictionary, molybdena, 3rd Edition, June 2008, Oxford University Press, accessed 28 September 2009, http://dictionary.oed.com/cgi/entry/00313689.

2Oxford English Dictionary, molybdenum, 3rd Edition, June 2008, Oxford University Press, accessed 28 September 2009, http://dictionary.oed.com/cgi/entry/00313696

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