Chemical Element: antimony

(Greek: chemical element; antimonos, opposed to solitude; symbol Sb is from Latin stibium [powdered antimony]; some say antimony means, “a metal seldom found alone”; metal)

Chemical-Element Information

Symbol: Sb
Atomic number: 51
Year discovered: c. 900

Discovered by: Some say Rahazes [Razi Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn Zakariya], c. 865, a Persian physician; while others give credit to Basil Valentine, a 15th century German monk.

  • Rhazes was a Persian physician and philosopher who was considered the greatest physician of the Islamic world.
  • He was the chief physician at hospitals in Rayy and Baghdad; and believed in the atomist theory of nature.
  • Some of his words were translated into Latin and he had a great influence on medical science in the Middle Ages.
  • Basil Valentine was an enthusiastic investigator of the properties of antimony and he noted the ability of antimony to free gold from its impurities and concluded it had a similar effect on man.
  • According to this belief, cattle were often fed antimony to fatten them.
  • Monks reportedly used the same method to avoid the effects of fasting, often being fatally poisoned.
  • Some speculators, therefore, attribute the name “antimony” to the combination of the Greek anti, “against,” and monos, “one who dwells alone”; that is, a monk.
  • A more accurate interpretation suggested by a lexicographer is antimonos, “a metal seldom found alone.”
  • In St. Jerome’s translation of the Bible, Jezebel, the wicked wife of Ahab, is reported to have painted her eyes with stibium, a name that has given antimony its chemical symbol, Sb.
  • Egyptian women used cosmetics made of antimony to beautify their faces and water from Egyptian wells was often borne in antimony vessels.
  • This metal is easy to pulverize.
  • Of the more common metals, antimony is the poorest conductor.
  • It is used in alloys, with lead for storage battery plates, with lead and tin in type metals and body solders, and with tin and copper in bearing or antifriction metals.
  • Its many peculiar characteristics make it valuable as a component of flameproofing chemicals, ceramic enamels, compound semiconductors, smoke generators, explosives, and medicines.

Name in other languages:

French: antimoine

German: Antimon

Italian: antimonio

Spanish: antimonio

Information about other elements may be seen at this Chemical Elements List.

A special unit about words that include chemo-, chem- may be seen here.