From the Greek word barys, heavy. Baryta was distinguished from lime by Scheele in 1774; the element was discovered by Sir Humphrey Davy in 1808.
It is found only in combination with other elements, chiefly with sulfate and carbonate and is prepared by electrolysis of the chloride.
The metal is used as a "getter" in vacuum tubes. The most important compounds are the peroxide, chloride, sulfate, carbonate, nitrate, and chlorate. Lithopone, a pigment containing barium sulfate and zinc sulfide, has good covering power, and does not darken in the presence of sulfides. The sulfate, as permanent white is also used in paint, in X-ray diagnostic work, and in glassmaking. Barite is extensively used as a weighing agent in oil well drilling fluids, and is used in making rubber. The carbonate has been used as a rat poison, while the nitrate and chlorate give colors in pyrotechnics. The impure sulfide phosphoresces after exposure to the light. All barium compounds that are water or acid soluble are poisonous. Naturally occurring barium is a mixture of seven stable isotopes. Twenty two other radioactive isotopes are known to exist.