Element number four in our series of International Year of the Periodic Table graphics, made in partnership with the Royal Society of Chemistry, is beryllium.
Beryllium is found in the mineral beryl, varieties of which include emerald and aquamarine. As one of the lowest density metals, gold-plated beryllium was used to make the 18 mirrors of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope. Compared to glass, beryllium contracts less in the cold temperature of space, which is why it was used.
Beryllium was called glucinium for a time after its initial discovery in 1797, and it wasn’t actually until 1949 that it was ruled it should exclusively be called beryllium. Glucinium comes from the greek word for ‘sweet’, and beryllium was so-called because some of its compounds are sweet-tasting. However, many of them are also toxic, so that’s probably not one you want to put to the test!