Sodium is a soft, light, silvery metallic chemical element. It is extremely reactive and is never found naturally as pure sodium, thus, it combines with other elements. Sodium changes color at high pressures.
At a glance, and in Mendeleev’s Periodic Law of Elements, sodium belongs to category alkali metal, it has the symbol Na, and the atomic number 11. Its reaction with water produces caustic sodium hydroxide (lye) and a highly flammable hydrogen gas. When burned in air, sodium forms sodium peroxide.
How was Sodium Discovered?
In 1807, English chemist Sir Humphry Davy discovered sodium. He used the newly invented battery to pass electricity through caustic soda, and thereby produced small amounts of sodium. (Caustic soda is a chemical used to make soap and clean drains.) In similar experiments, Sir Davy also discovered another reactive metal called potassium.
Sodium used to be called soda, a term which was said to have originated from sodanum, an ancient headache remedy that contained sodium. The chemical symbol for sodium, Na, which comes from natrium, is the Latin word for sodium. The word natrium comes from the ancient Egyptian word for salt, which is natron.
Sodium in our Body
Sodium helps our brains to work and our nerves to carry messages around our bodies. The importance of sodium to our nervous system was discovered in the 1940s. English scientists Alan Hodgkin and Andrew Huxley and Australian scientist Sir John Eccles shared the Nobel Prize for Physiology or medicine in 1963 for this discovery.
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