Strontium is named after the small Scottish Village of Strontian in Western Scotland. Strontian lies some 24 miles/38 kilometres Southwest of Fort William. In 1787, an unusual rock which had been found in a lead mine at Strontian, Scotland, was investigated by Adair Crawford, an Edinburgh doctor. He realised it was a new mineral containing an unknown ‘earth’ which he named strontia. In 1791, another Edinburgh man, Thomas Charles Hope, made a fuller investigation of it and proved it was a new element.

Strontium metal itself was isolated in 1808 at the Royal Institution in London by Humphry Davy by means of electrolysis, using the method with which he had already isolated sodium and potassium.

Strontium is an alkaline earth metal which is chemically highly reactive. Strontium is best known for the brilliant reds its salts give to fireworks and flares. It is also used in producing ferrite magnets and refining zinc.

Modern ‘glow-in-the-dark’ paints and plastics contain strontium aluminate. They absorb light during the day and release it slowly for hours afterwards. One of its isotopes, Strontium-90, is a radioactive by-product of nuclear reactors. It can be used to generate electricity for space vehicles, remote weather stations and navigation buoys.

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