Chemical Element: cerium

(Modern Latin: chemical element; named for the asteroid Ceres which was discovered in 1803 and named for the Roman goddess Ceres; rare earth)

Chemical-Element Information

Symbol: Ce
Atomic number: 58
Year discovered: 1803

Discovered by: Baron Jöns Jakob Berzelius (1779-1848), a Swedish chemist, and Wilhelm Hisinger (1766-1852), a Swedish mineralogist, working together; and independently by Martin Heinrich Klaproth (1743-1817), a German chemist.

  • Contracted from cereium, a name coined by the Swedish chemist Baron Jöns Jakob Berzelius who, at first, thought this element should be Atomic Number 72.
  • Cerium is malleable and ductile and is used in porcelain, glass, and alloys.
  • It reacts rapidly with boiling water, liberating hydrogen; and in wire form, it burns brilliantly when heated.
  • Cerium and its compounds have a number of practical applications.
  • Tetravalent (ceric) salts, that are powerful but stable oxidizing agents, are used in analytical chemistry to determine oxidizable substances such as ferrous iron.
  • The dioxide is employed in the optics industry for fine polishing of glass and as an opacifier in porcelain coatings.
  • Cerium nitrate is used in the manufacture of Welsbach incandescent gas mantles; while other salts are used in the ceramic, photographic, and textile industries.

Name in other languages:

French: cérium

German: Cer

Italian: cerio

Spanish: cerio

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.