Strontium: historical information
Adair Crawford in 1790 recognized a new mineral (strontianite) in samples of witherite (a mineral consisting of barium carbonate, BaCO3) from Scotland. It was some time before it was recognised that strontianite contained a new element. Strontianite is now known to consists of strontium carbonate, SrCO3. The element itself was not isolated for a number of years after this when strontium metal was isolated by Davy by electrolysis of a mixture containing strontium chloride and mercuric oxide in 1808.
Sometime prior to the autumn of 1803, the Englishman John Dalton was able to explain the results of some of his studies by assuming that matter is composed of atoms and that all samples of any given compound consist of the same combination of these atoms. Dalton also noted that in series of compounds, the ratios of the masses of the second element that combine with a given weight of the first element can be reduced to small whole numbers (the law of multiple proportions). This was further evidence for atoms. Dalton's theory of atoms was published by Thomas Thomson in the 3rd edition of his System of Chemistry in 1807 and in a paper about strontium oxalates published in the Philosophical Transactions. Dalton published these ideas himself in the following year in the New System of Chemical Philosophy. The symbol used by Dalton for strontium is shown below. [See History of Chemistry, Sir Edward Thorpe, volume 1, Watts & Co, London, 1914.]