is a natural element - a metal that has been one of mankind's most
useful and valuable materials. It is represented by the chemical symbol Cu
and the atomic number 29.
Copper is also an essential nutrient that is required by virtually all
higher life forms. It is an essential component of dietary nutrition that
enables the body to metabolize energy and function properly. As with humans,
plants and animal health rely on adequate copper intake. The world's
two most important food crops - rice and wheat - are both highly
dependent on sufficient copper in soil.
Copper has been indispensable to human progress. In fields ranging from
medical equipment to energy efficiency, from jet planes to satellites, from
television to the Internet, Copper is vital to our well being in day-to-day
Copper is by far the most sustainable gift of nature's bounty. For as
long as humans have put copper to use, they have taken advantage of the fact
that it is virtually one hundred percent recyclable. It has always made
economic sense to retrieve as much copper as possible from a product, at the
end of its life cycle, and re-use it for some new purpose. Moreover, most
copper in use, such as roofing, wiring, and plumbing, will remain in use for
over half a century.
Some of the earliest uses of copper we know of dates
back to the cave men who used axes and other weapons made of copper. All the
way from the Egyptian pyramids to Mohenjo Daro, archaeologists have
discovered copper used to make statues and even plumbing systems. What
surprised them was the fact that the plumbing was found to still be
serviceable in our time!
Ancient belief systems found to be based on scientific facts have proven
that Copper, drinking water in copper vessels due to the metal's
anti-fouling properties. considered to be a 'pure' metal was best
for storing food. Our ancestors would store
Did you know that some of the fastest micro processors in the world are
made partly from copper? A major part of the connectors and instrument parts
used in space crafts and rockets use copper.
Copper is one of the best and safest conductors of electricity and has
replaced aluminium in all areas including house wiring.
Think about this:
Replacing all Aluminium wound transformers with copper can result in annual
energy savings of 4500 million kehr of energy and Rs. 1800 crores for India.
The daily dietary recommendation of copper for an adult is 1-2 mg and for a
child is 0.5-I mg.
Expectant mothers are advised to double their intake of copper during the
third trimester to ensure proper foetal development.
Architectural uses of copper can remain in place for more than a
- One of the famous Dead Sea Scrolls found in Israel is made of copper
instead of fragile animal skins. The scroll contains clues to a still
- Archeologists have recovered a portion of a water plumbing system
from the Pyramid of Cheops in Egypt. After 5,000 years, the copper
tubing was still in serviceable condition.
- A copper frying pan at the University of Pennsylvania's museum has
been dated to be more than 50 centuries old.
- When Columbus sailed to America, his ships (Nina, Pinta, and Santa
Maria) had copper skins below the water line. The copper sheathing
extended hull life and protected against barnacles and other types of
biofouling. Today, most sea-going vessels use a copper-based paint for
Archaeological evidence indicates that copper was used as far back as
10,000 years ago in western Asia. During the prehistoric Chalcolithic
Period, societies discovered how to extract and use copper to produce
ornaments and implements. As early as the 3rd-4th Millennium BC, copper was
actively extracted from Spain's Huelva region. Around 2500 BC, the discovery
of useful properties of copper-tin alloys led to the Bronze Age.
It has been documented that Israel's Timna Valley provided copper for the
Pharaohs. Papyrus records from ancient Egypt reveal that copper was used to
treat infections and sterilize water. The island of Cyprus is known to have
supplied much of the copper needed for the empires of ancient Phoenicia,
Greece, and Rome.
While the Greeks during Aristotle's era were familiar with brass, it was
not until Augustus' Imperial Rome that brass became abundantly used. In
South America, the pre-Columbian Maya, Aztec, and Inca civilizations
exploited copper, as well as gold and silver. During the Middle Ages, copper
and bronze flourished in China, India, and Japan.
The discoveries and inventions in the late 18th and early 19th Centuries by
Ampere, Faraday, and Ohm propelled copper into a new era. Demonstrating
excellent electrical conducting and heat transfer characteristics, copper
played a pivotal role in launching the Industrial Revolution.
The Name Copper
In their hieroglyphics (picture writing), the ancient Egyptians used the
Ankh sign to represent copper. The Ankh was also the symbol of Eternal Life,
which is appropriate for copper since it has been used continuously by
people for 10,000 years.
Homer, following the Greek practice of around 1000 B.C., called the metal
Chalkos. This is why the Copper Age is also known as the Chalcolithic Era.
A thousand years later during the Early Christian Era, the words "aes
Cyprium" appeared in Roman writings about copper, because much of the
metal at the time came from Cyprus. The word "copper" is an
Anglicized term of this Latin phrase.