Chemical Element: arsenic

(Latin: arsenicum, yellow; gold, golden; nonmetal)

Chemical-Element Information

Symbol: As
Atomic number: 33
Year discovered: 1250

Discovered by: Possibly first separated by Albertus Magnus (c.1193-1280), the 13th century German scholastic philosopher.

  • Elemental arsenic may have been first recorded by the Greek historian Zosimus in the 5th century A.D.
  • Pedanios Dioscorides and Pliny the Elder in the 1st century refer to auripigmentum, which was probably orpiment.
  • Both observed the change in color and properties of the sulfide on calcining it.
  • Some believe that Albertus Magnus, was the first to isolate and identify arsenic as an element.
  • He noted the appearance of a metal-like substance on heating arsenicum (arsenious sulfide) with soap.
  • Arsenic and its compounds are used in insecticides, weed killers, solid-state doping agents, and various alloys.
  • Arsenic compounds were mined by the early Chinese, Greek and Egyptian civilizations.
  • No doubt they discovered its toxic properties early.
  • It is believed that Albertus Magnus obtained the element in 1250 A.D. and obtained it by heating soap together with orpiment (arsenic trisulphide).
  • Arsenic causes acute inflammation of the stomach and also affects other parts of the body.
  • Its compounds have been used in medicines at least since the time of Hippocrates in the 5th century B.C.

Name in other languages:

French: arsenic

German: Arsen

Italian: arsenico

Spanish: arsénico

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.