Attribution: Cory Doctorow
From the Latin word nitrum, Greek Nitron, native soda; and genes, forming. Nitrogen was discovered by chemist and physician Daniel Rutherford in 1772. He removed oxygen and carbon dioxide from air and showed that the residual gas would not support combustion or living organisms. At the same time there were other noted scientists working on the problem of nitrogen. These included Scheele, Cavendish, Priestley, and others. They called it "burnt" or" dephlogisticated air," which meant air without oxygen.
Nitrogen gas (N2) makes up 78.1% of the Earth’s air, by volume. The atmosphere of Mars, by comparison, is only 2.6% nitrogen. From an exhaustible source in our atmosphere, nitrogen gas can be obtained by liquefaction and fractional distillation. Nitrogen is found in all living systems as part of the makeup of biological compounds.