Chemical Element: carbon

(Latin: carbo, coal, charcoal; nonmetal)

Chemical-Element Information

Symbol: C
Atomic number: 6
Year discovered: Known since ancient times although not recognized as an element until much later.

Discovered by: Unknown

  • Most of the energy of our bodies, as well as that which drives our machines, is supplied by the oxidation of carbon and its compounds.
  • Every form of animal and plant life requires carbon for survival.
  • Plants obtain it from the carbon dioxide in the air, converting carbon dioxide and water into carbohydrates in the process of photosynthesis.
  • Animals consume the carbohydrates, returning carbon dioxide to the atmosphere by the processes of exhalation and excretion and the decomposition of their bodies under bacterial action after death.
  • This endless chain linking animal and plant life is known as the carbon cycle.
  • Three of the important forms of carbon are diamond, graphite, and black carbon.
  • Diamond is the hardest substance found in nature, but in 1957, a new substance, borazon (cubic boron nitride), was synthesized.
  • It is as hard as diamond and scratches it with ease.
  • More than 1 000 000 compounds of carbon are believed to have been discovered; the exact number never has been determined.
  • It is definitely known; however, that there are more compounds of carbon than of all other elements combined.
  • Carbon as charcoal, soot, and coal has been used since prehistoric times.

Name in other languages:

French: carbone

German: Kohlenstoff

Italian: carbonio

Spanish: carbono

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.