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How was carbon named?

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Quick Answer

Carbon was named by French scientist Antoine Lavoisier, and it is named after the Latin word for charcoal, "carbo." Carbon has been known since ancient times, and it is most commonly obtained from coal deposits.

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Full Answer

Carbon is the sixth most abundant element found in the universe. It is created when stars undergo nuclear fusion. As the element helium burns, carbon is formed in the ash. It has eight different allotropes, including charcoal, diamond, graphite and amorphous.

It was not until 1772 that scientists realized that all the allotropes were composed of the same element. Lavoisier burned a diamond in a closed system and discovered it produced carbon dioxide and oxygen. He concluded that it, like charcoal, must be composed of carbon. Carl Scheele repeated this experiment with graphite, and he determined that it also must be composed of carbon.

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