History of Magnesium Element and When was Magnesium First Discovered?


What is Magnesium? Information on discovery of Magnesium element and history Of Magnesium Element. When was magnesium first discovered?

Magnesium; a silvery white, very light, metallic metal, which, although it does not occur free in nature, is the eighth most abundant element in the earth’s crust. Its mineral compounds are very widely distributed in most countries of the world, and sea water, which contains about 0.13 per cent magnesium, is virtually an inexhaustible source.

What Is The Importance Of Magnesium?


Magnesium, in an impure state, was first obtained by Sir Humphry Davy in 1808. He electrolyzed a mixture of magnesia and mercuric oxide and distilled the mercury from the magnesium amalgam. In 1829, Antoine Bussy obtained the metal in larger quantity and in a purer form by heating anhydrous magnesium chloride to redness with potassium. On dissolving out the residual chlorides, the metal appeared as a powder which could be fused readily into globules of relatively pure metal. In 1833, Michael Faraday became the first to produce metallic magnesium by electrolysis of a fused magnesium salt, and his method is the forerunner of the modern electrolytic process. Robert Wilhelm Eberhard von Bunsen was the first to recognize the importance of an anhydrous cell feed. In 18S2 he electrolyzed fused anhydrous magnesium chloride, and Augustus Matthiessen, in 1856, improved this electrolyte by substituting mixed potassium, magnesium, and ammonium chloride, which was more easily prepared in the anhydrous form.

The first commercial production of magnesium occurred in 1866 in Germany by using a modified Bunsen electrolytic cell. Germany led the way as a producer of magnesium until 1915, when, because of the 1914-1918 wartime need for pyrotechnics, it became essential to produce magnesium elsewhere, and the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and Canada all entered the field. During 1916-1917 eight companies produced magnesium in the United States. However, with the war’s end, only the Dow Chemical Company and the American Magnesium Corporation continued production. In 1927 the latter company discontinued this activity and only Dow remained.


Peacetime requirements for magnesium were sufficient to cause small increases in production and some advances were made in the technology. It was the immense stimulus of World War II which advanced magnesium to the forefront as a structural metal. Confronted by huge military requirements for pyrotechnics and for a lightweight structural metal for use in building aircraft and airborne equipment, the United States government undertook construction of magnesium production facilities on an unprecedented scale. Between 1939 and 1943, 15 plants were built in the United States, 13 by the government and 2 by private companies.

Production of primary magnesium in the United States reached its peak in 1943 at 183,584 tons, and the peak of consumption was reached in 1944 at 132,698 tons —all for war purposes. In 1944 military needs decreased drastically and the government began to close its plants. By the end of 1945 the defense plants had been shut out and only Dow’s plant at Freeport, Texas, remained active. Six of the government-owned plants were reactivated in 1951 and produced at varying capacities during the Korean War.

The history of magnesium production and consumption in the United Kingdom, Canada, and Germany has followed a somewhat similar pattern to that in the United States, in that production has flourished in wartime and fallen in peacetime. Various other countries, including Norway, France, Japan, Switzerland, Italy, Australia, and Russia have produced magnesium. Only Norway and Canada, with large quantities of raw material and power available at low cost, are able to produce at prices competitive with those of the producers in the United States. Information on production in Russia is unreliable. The table shows a summary of world production in recent years by countries.

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