The element platinum was first identified independently in the 1740s by both Spanish scientist Antonio de Ulloa and English metallurgist Charles Wood from samples collected in Colombia. The most important and abundant member of the platinum group metals, platinum has an atomic number of 78 and a face centered cubic crystal structure. Platinum is favored for its extreme strength and resistance to corrosion or reaction with other elements and compounds making ideal for laboratory tools. The English word platinum (considered Modern Latin) derives from the Spanish word platina (courtesy de Ulloa) which was a diminutive of the Spanish word for silver, plata. The word first existed in English as platina, when both English and Spanish scientists thought platinum was an inferior version of silver. Platinum had an intermediate step in platinium around 1812, before dropping the I and entering English finally as platinum a short time later.
Platinum has many important industrial uses courtesy of its high strength and resistance to heat and corrosion, with a notable use in car engines-the tops of spark plugs are covered in platinum and can often last the life of the vehicle. While platinum has some uses in jewelry, its resemblance to silver often limits its appeal.
Image of platinum crystals courtesy Periodictableru, used with permission under a Creative Commons 3.0 license.