Lead is a soft, malleable, ductile, bluish-white, dense metallic element, extracted chiefly from galena and found in ore with zinc, silver and copper.
The original use of lead plumbs the depths of history. In fact, the oldest known lead article is a figurine found in Egypt that dates back to 4,000BC. Later, because of its malleability and resistance to corrosion, lead was used extensively by the Romans for water pipes, aqueducts, tank linings and cooking pots and then by ancient scientists in early cosmetics, paints and pigments, and in lead-rich glazes.
In the 21st Century, lead remains a cornerstone of society, but in a very different way. Whilst it is still used for its malleability and corrosion resistance, it is now its chemical properties that make it a thoroughly modern metal. Today's uses are focused on power and protection; in radiation protection, underwater power and communication cables, vehicle batteries, electric vehicle batteries and in batteries operating emergency power supplies.
In short, this malleable and dense metal, once favoured for figurines, now powers and protects our modern world.
Evolution of an Element (506kb)