Joseph Black of Scotland
Necessary for all life.
Named after a region of Greece, magnesium is a silvery-white, shiny metal. It is ductile and fairly soft, although nowhere near as soft as sodium or lithium. Magnesium is a common metal on Earth, being the eighth most common element in the Earth’s crust. Magnesium is a reactive metal and will burn in air with a very hot, white light. It will react with hot water, acids and bases. Magnesium is used if bright, hot flames are needed, such as fireworks, flares, and incendiary weapons. It is a lightweight metal, one third lighter than aluminum and is used in alloys to harden aluminum for use in beverage cans and light-weight automobile parts. Magnesium compounds are used for several different purposes, such as drying agents, insulation in ovens and furnaces, stomach medicine (the famous milk of magnesia) and laxatives.
Magnesium is critical to all species, especially plants. Chlorophyll, the pigment that is responsible for photosynthesis, has a single magnesium atom at its center. Without magnesium, chlorophyll would lose its ability to utilize sunlight. In humans, magnesium is used for a variety of purposes, such as in the structure of bones and teeth, in cellular energy production, and in the functioning of the nervous system. It is required in the activation of certain enzymes. Humans suffering a magnesium deficiency experience a condition very similar to delirium tremens, or the “DTs,” withdrawal symptoms.
Role in Life Processes
Essential to life processes in plants, and critical for life processes in animals.
Percentage Amount in the Human Body: 0.03%
Magnesium is chiefly obtained by electrolysis of magnesium chloride, which can be obtained in virtually unlimited quantities from the oceans. It is obtained from salt lake brines in the USA. Magnesium is also obtained in smaller quantities from the magnesium-bearing minerals dolomite, magnesite, kieserite and brucite. Other magnesium-bearing minerals include carnallite, cordierite, and diopside. Magnesium is mined in China, North Korea, Russia, Austria, Greece and the USA.