Calcium is a chemical element with symbol Ca and atomic number 20. An alkaline earth metal, calcium is a reactive pale yellow metal that forms a dark oxide-nitride layer when exposed to air. Its physical and chemical properties are most similar to its heavier homologues strontium and barium. It is the fifth most abundant element in Earth’s crust and the third most abundant metal, after iron and aluminium. The most common calcium compound on Earth is calcium carbonate, found in limestone and the fossilised remnants of early sea life; gypsum, anhydrite, fluorite, and apatite are also sources of calcium.
The name derives from Latin calx “lime”, which was obtained from heating limestone. Its compounds were known to the ancients, though their chemistry was unknown until the seventeenth century. It was isolated by Humphry Davy in 1808 via electrolysis of its oxide, who named the element. While the pure metal does not have many applications due to its high reactivity, it is often used as an alloying component in small quantities in steelmaking, and calcium–lead alloys are sometimes used in automotive batteries. Calcium compounds on the other hand are very widely used in many industries: for example, they are used in foods and pharmaceuticals for calcium supplementation, in the paper industry as bleaches, in cement, in the manufacture of soaps, and as electrical insulators.
Calcium is the fifth most abundant element in the human body and the most abundant metal. Calcium ions play a vital role in the physiology and biochemistry of organisms and the cell as electrolytes. They play an important role in signal transduction pathways, where they act as a second messenger, in neurotransmitter release from neurons, in contraction of all muscle cell types, and in fertilization. Many enzymes require calcium ions as a cofactor. Calcium ions outside cells are also important for maintaining the potential difference across excitable cell membranes, as well as proper bone formation.

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