Beryllium was named without a specific technique. Berylliumwas was discovered by Louis-Nicholas Vauquelin, a French chemist, as an unknown element that was present in emeralds and beryl.
Attempts to isolate the new element finally succeeded in 1828 when two chemists, Friedrich Wölhler of Germany and A. Bussy of France, independently produced beryllium by reducing beryllium chloride with potassium in a platinum crucible. Today, beryllium is primarily obtained from the minerals beryl and bertrandite.
Beryllium is a metal and has a high melting point. At ordinary temperatures, beryllium resists oxidation in air. Beryllium compounds are very toxic. Its ability to scratch glass is most likely due to the formation of a thin layer of the oxide.
Beryllium is relatively transparent to X-rays and is used to make windows for X-ray tubes. It is also used as a moderator in nuclear reactors. It was once known as glucinum, which means sweet, since beryllium and many of its compounds have a sugary taste. Unfortunately for the chemists that discovered this particular property, beryllium and many of its compounds are poisonous and should never be tasted or ingested because of its harmful effects.
Beryllium is alloyed with copper and forms a wear resistant material, known as beryllium bronze, used in gyroscopes and other devices where wear resistance is important. Beryllium alloyed with nickel is used to make springs, spot-welding electrodes and non-sparking tools.