Silicon was first isolated in the laboratory of Swedish chemist Jöns Jacob Berzelius in 1824. Berzelius extracted his sample by heating potassium in an earthenware vessel until the silicate rock began to break down. When he rinsed away the impurities, Berzelius was left with a sample of almost pure silicon.
Silicon was discovered earlier than many other chemical elements because of its relative abundance. Silicon is light, so it is easily synthesized by nuclear reactions in stars. This fact, along with its relative stability, makes silicon the second-most prominent element in the Earth's crust, as well as the seventh-most widespread element in the universe.