26Fe Iron

Year Discovered


Discovered By


Biological Rating

Necessary for all life.


The meaning of its name is unknown, although its origins are Anglo-Saxon. Pure iron is a soft, lustrous, dark silvery-gray metal. Iron is a strongly reactive metal, being very reactive with acids, and forms oxides, commonly known as rust, with air and water. Many reddish or orange colored rocks gain this color from the rusting of iron within the rocks. Iron is a relatively common element in the universe, being found in stars, meteorites and rocky planets in considerable quantities. Iron is the cheapest metal and fourth most abundant element in Earth’s crust. The core of the Earth is thought to be predominately iron with a small amount of nickel. Iron along with cobalt and nickel are the only three elements that are ferromagnetic, that is, able to create or possess a permanent magnetic field. Of the three, iron possesses this capability most strongly. Iron has been used in tool making and as a building material for thousands of years. It is the chief constituent of steel, which is mostly iron alloyed with a small amount of carbon. Nearly all iron is devoted to the steel industry, since our society is essentially built with steel. Many different types of steels with different qualities are created by alloying the steel with different metals, such as nickel, vanadium, chromium and manganese. Iron’s symbol, Fe comes from its Latin name ferrum.

Role in Life Processes

Essential for life in animals and necessary for full health of plants.

Percentage Amount in the Human Body: 0.006%


Iron is a common element in many minerals. The minerals goethite, hematite (ferric oxide), lepidocrocite, magnetite (iron oxide) and siderite (iron carbonate) are all mined for iron. The largest concentrations are in iron-rich sedimentary rocks, and such deposits are mined in Australia, Brazil, China, India, and Russia.  Michigan and Minnesota produce the majority of iron ore in the U.S.