Named for the mineral zircon in which it can be found, zirconium was discovered in 1789 by Klaproth and eventually isolated in 1824 by Berzelius. The metal reacts with oxygen and nitrogen in the atmosphere to form a protective coating that inhibits further corrosion. It is resistant to weak acids and even forms a low-temperature superconductor when alloyed with niobium.
Zirconium finds applications in industry which suit its high corrosion resistance and strength. It is very similar to the less plentiful Hafnium (see below) and the two are very difficult to separate. Most samples of either are contaminated with small amounts of the other element.
Stephen R. Marsden (ChemTopics)