The History Of Magnesium Biology Essay

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Magnesium, Mg, was discovered in 1618 by a farmer in Epsom, England. The farmer's cattle would not drink from his well because the water had a bitter taste. The farmer also noticed that when the water was placed on the cows, it helped cure scrapes and rashes on their bodies. This water was shortly named Epsom salts (magnesium sulphate, MgSO4) and turn out to be well-liked as a heal for all illnesses. More than one hundred years later, in 1755, a man by the name of Joseph Black in Edinburgh, Scotland recognized magnesium as being an element. It was not until 1808, when British chemist Sir Humphry Davy managed to isolate pure magnesium. He did this by evaporating the mercury from a magnesium amalgam made by electrolysing a mixture of moist magnesia and mercuric oxide.6

Figure 1: Portrait of Joseph Figure 2: Portrait of Sir Humphry Figure 3: Epsom Salts (Magne-

Black Davy sium Sulphate)

Scientific Perspective


Magnesium has 12 electrons and 12 protons. The electrons spin around the nucleus in three electron shells, where the first shell has 2 electrons, second has 8 electrons, and third has 2 electrons.*. Magnesium's electron configuration is 1s22s2p63s2. The average atomic mass of Mg is 24.31. Magnesium has 3 stable isotopes: Mg-24, Mg25, and lastly Mg-26. Also, magnesium is hexagonal in shape in its crystal structure.7

Figure 4: Bohr Diagram of Magnesium


Firstly, magnesium is a metal at room temperature. It is found in Group II (alkaline-earth metals) in the periodic table. Magnesium is in the third period of the periodic table.4

Figure 5: Magnesium at Room Temperature


Magnesium is never found naturally in its pure state, as a metal, because it readily reacts with other elements to form compounds. The more common compounds of magnesium are magnesium oxide (MgO), magnesium hydroxide (Mg(OH)2), magnesium chloride (MgCl2), magnesium carbonate(MgCO3), and magnesium sulfate (MgSO4). Positive magnesium ions (Mg2+) are strongly attracted to negative ions such as sulfate (SO42-), carbonate (CO32-) and chloride (Cl-) and when bonded together they form ionic compounds. Moreover, magnesium reacts with dilute acids which ultimately form salts of magnesium, for instance, magnesium reacts with hydrochloric acid to form magnesium chloride and with sulphuric acid to form magnesium sulfate.4

Figure 6: Magnesium Oxide Figure 7: Magnesium Chloride

Physical and Chemical Properties

Physical Properties:

Magnesium is a hard, shiny, silvery white coloured metal. In terms of weight, Magnesium is the lightest of all structural metals. At room temperature, magnesium is solid, at 651°C magnesium melts, and at 1107°C magnesium boils and turns into a gas. Magnesium has a density of 1.74g/cm-3 at 20°C.3

Chemical Properties:

To begin with, magnesium is extremely reactive. Magnesium's metallic surface is covered with a slight layer of oxide, which helps guard the metal from attacks by air. When magnesium is set on fire, it burns in air with a blinding, bright, white flame, to form a mixture of white magnesium oxide (MgO) and magnesium nitride (Mg3N2). Magnesium is highly reactive with halogens including, chlorine (Cl2) or bromine (Br2) and it burns to form the dihalides, magnesium chloride (MgCl2) and magnesium bromide (MgBr2).3



An approximate estimation of half of all magnesium made is mixed with aluminum to make alloys. Magnesium alloys are used for the construction of beverage cans and are also used in printing, in a process called photoengraving.*. Magnesium chloride is used to create cements for flooring and in the textile industry. Magnesium carbonate is used to craft inks, glass, rubber, pharmaceuticals, and food additives. Magnesium hydroxide is used in the production of magnesium metal. Magnesium oxides are used as material in the furnace linings for manufacturing iron and steel. Since magnesium has a very low density, it has numerous applications where weight plummeting is a significant factor, for example, in airplane and missile assembly and in contemporary race-car design and lightweight vehicles. Magnesium has a large number of helpful chemical and metallurgic properties, which make it appropriate for many other non-structural applications. Furthermore, magnesium components are widely used in industry and agriculture. Magnesium is used to make bright and noisy fireworks, it makes those crackling noises because the magnesium is mixed with aluminum.*. Lastly, magnesium powder is vital to countless nuclear power plants due to the fact that it is the reducing agent for the production of pure uranium.9

Figure 8: Magnesium Alloy

Environmental Issues

The process of electrolysis is not hurtful to the environment whatsoever. On an environmental ranking from 0 to 3, magnesium oxide fume is placed at 0.8, where 3 signifies an extremely harmful danger to the environment while 0 signifies an inconsequential danger. Magnesium powder is not suspected to be tremendously damaging to the environment. Magnesium is the central atom of a chlorophyll molecule, and thus, as a result is an obligation for plant photosynthesis.12

Health Issues

Magnesium is an incredibly vital element in the human body, and humans require a minimum of 200mg of magnesium in their bodies. Magnesium and calcium work side by side in our muscles to help them move. Calcium helps the muscles to contract, while magnesium helps the muscles to relax. A lack of magnesium in the body can result to an increase risk of heart attacks, because a shortage of magnesium can stop heart muscles from relaxing properly. Magnesium hydroxide is not only used in the production of magnesium but also used as a laxative and as an antacid to cure indigestion. No proof is given that magnesium creates systemic poisoning, although regular excessive indulgences of magnesium supplements and medicines can lead to vomiting, breathing problems, and migraines. Exposure to magnesium oxide fume followed by burning, welding, or molten metal work can consequence to metal fume fever. Various enzymes found in the human body necessitate magnesium ions to function correctly. Magnesium ions are necessary to all living things; they play a main role in significant biological polyphosphate compounds including ATP, DNA, and RNA.2

Societal Implications

Magnesium is extremely important in society. Magnesium is very vital in the production of steel industry. Magnesium is a very important element in the human body, as it helps lessen the risk of heart attacks. Magnesium is found in green vegetables, some legumes (beans and peas), nuts and seeds, and whole, unrefined grains. Magnesium hydroxide is not only used in the production of magnesium metal but also is used as a laxative and as an antacid to take care of indigestion.11

Table 1: Food that contains Magnesium and its amount of magnesium in 100-gm


Details of Company:

The United States Steel Corporation operations are in the United States, Canada, and Central Europe. The United States Steel Corporation consists of 49, 000 employees worldwide as of 2008. They have an annual raw steelmaking capability of 31.7 million net tons. The company produces a broad variety of value-added steel sheet and tubular products for the automotive, appliance, container, industrial, machinery, construction and oil and gas industries.13

Figure 9: Statement of Net Income for The United States Steel Corporation from December 2007 to December 2009


There mare numerous careers that involve magnesium. Dieticians, as they advertise the importance of the intake of magnesium in the human body. Pharmacists, as they use magnesium hydroxide when making laxatives and antacids to treat indigestion. Company producers of glass, steel, cement, rubber, and iron use magnesium. Engineers the work in nuclear power plants, as magnesium is the reducing agent for the production of pure uranium. Employees that work in the production of fireworks, as magnesium is used to make fireworks bright and loud. 10


Magnesium is a crucial element on this planet. It is very important in the production industry of cement, steel, iron, plastic, glass, rubber, and printing. It is extremely vital to the human body as it reduces the risk of heart attacks and plays a key role in significant biological polyphosphate compounds such as ATP, DNA, and RNA. Scientists say there is enough magnesium for many future generations. So since magnesium is very easily accessible in numerous dietary foods, everyone should remember to consume a portion of magnesium a day for their own health benefits. Humans need magnesium to live; it's life or death.

End Notes

1. Albert Stwertka, A Guide to the Elements (Don Mills: Oxford University Press, 2002), 39-42.

2. Brian J. Knapp, Calcium and Magnesium (Oxon: Atlantic Europe Publishing, 1996), 34.

3. Ref. 2, P. 37-41

4. Ref. 2, P. 46-49

5. Carolyn Dean, The Miracle of Magnesium (New York: Ballantine Books, 2003), 7-9.

6. Colin Uttley, Magnesium (New York: Benchmark Books, 2000), 4-7.

7. Ref. 6, P. 9

8. Ref. 6, P. 16-18

9. Ref. 6, P. 21-22

10. Ref. 6, P. 25-28

11. David E. Newton, Chemical Elements: From Carbon to Krypton (Farmington Hills: U·X·L Publishers, 1999), 42.

12. "Encyclopædia Britannica Online School Edition." Encyclopædia Britannica Online School Edition.

=magnesium&ct=null (accessed March 22, 2010).

13. "United States Steel Corporation." United States Steel Corporation. (accessed March 24, 2010).