Thorium was discovered in 1829 by Swedish chemist Jöns Jacob Berzelius in a sample from a mineral eventually named Thorite by Berzelius. The mineral thorite was found in Norway by Morten Thrane Esmark, a Norwegian priest and amateur mineralogist. Both the mineral and element are named after the Norse god of thunder, Thor. Earlier uses of thorium include as a light source, by heating thorium oxide, in the production of ceramics and carbon arc lamps. The radioactive nature of thorium was first observed in 1898. A better understanding of the biological effects of radiation led to banning some uses such as in treatment of diabetes and rheumatism. Thorium is still used as an alloying element for magnesium while thorium oxide is used in catalysis, in the production of high-quality camera lenses and high temperature crucibles. There is interest in using thorium as an energy source in the form of nuclear fuel. Although not fissile, thorium transmutes to uranium-238 upon absorbing a neutron.
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