Medical Definition of Hydrogen

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Hydrogen: The most plentiful element in the universe and one present in all organic compounds. Hydrogen is a gas with an atomic number of 1 and the symbol H.

Two isotopes of hydrogen -- deuterium and tritium -- have been used as tracers in metabolic studies. Tritium is a long-lived weak emitter of radiation and can be easily incorporated in large molecules such as DNA, and is therefore much used for autoradiography in the laboratory.

Antoine Lavoisier coined the name hydrogen from the Greek hydro (water) + genes (forming), reflecting the fact that water is generated by the combustion of this element.

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Reviewed on 12/21/2018

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