Wikijunior:The Elements/Magnesium

Shows the position of Magnesium on the periodic chart.
Magnesium's symbol on the Periodic Table

What does it look, feel, taste, or smell like?

A small piece of magnesium.

Magnesium as a metal is silver-white and lightweight. It is pictured here in a stick, but it also comes in powder form. Surprisingly, it can be bought by the average person, usually for medical reasons. Magnesium is also softer than other metals. If you've ever tried to bend a metal spoon (these are usually made of steel, a very strong metal) you probably couldn't. If that same spoon was made of magnesium, you could easily bend it. It doesn't smell like anything on its own, because metals don't really smell like anything. The smell you think of when you think of metals is because of a reaction between the oil on your hands and the metal.

Magnesium in crystalized form.

How was it discovered?


A French-Scottish physician and chemist named Joseph Black discovered magnesium in 1755 in England. Sir Humphry Davy electrolytically isolated pure magnesium metal in 1808.

Where did its name come from?


Magnesium gets its name from the Greek word for a district in the Greek region of Thessaly called Magnesia.

Did You Know?

  • Magnesium is the eighth most abundant element.
  • 1.3 kilograms of magnesium can be found in every cubic kilometer of sea water.
  • Magnesium is used in marine flares and fireworks to produce a brilliant white light.

Where is it found?


Magnesium as a pure metal is not found in nature, because it is very reactive and doesn't like to exist on its own, but it is very common as an ion in various compounds as it is more stable in this form.

Magnesium is very common on earth and in seawater.

Magnesium can be found in green vegetables, especially darker green ones. This is because chlorophyll, the green pigment in plants, contains magnesium.

What are its uses?


Magnesium is necessary for all living cells. It is used to help our body make molecules like DNA. Plants also use magnesium as a part of chlorophyll for photosynthesis.

Magnesium burns very bright white. In the old days, magnesium could be used as a light source and was used to create the flash for cameras. Now, it is used in some fireworks. It is also used to make incendiary bombs.

Since magnesium is one-third lighter than aluminum, it is combined with other metals to make missiles and aircraft. Many automakers use magnesium alloys in their vehicles. Some car batteries use magnesium.

Magnesium oxide (MgO), also called magnesia, is used in some stomach antacids. Magnesium is also used to make epsom salts, which is used to treat minor skin abrasions.

Magnesium is also used for construction. It is known as one of the lightest metals that can be used for construction.

Is it dangerous?


Magnesium is highly flammable, and the bright light it gives off can damage the eyes. Never place it in fire, as it burns at an EXTREMELY high temperature, and never throw it into an acid which might cause the release of flammable hydrogen gas. Keep away from children.