Accepted for publication 22/01/04 By means of detailed chemo-photometric models for elliptical, spiral and irregular galaxies, we evaluate the cosmic history of the production of chemical elements as well as the metal mass density of the present-day universe. In particular, we study the production rates of some of the most common chemical species (O, Mg, N, Si, Fe, Zn), detected both in local stars, galactic and extragalactic HII regions and high redshift objects. Such a study allows us to compute in detail the fraction of each element locked up in stars, interstellar gas and intergalactic medium. We then calculate the mean metal abundances for galaxies of different morphological types, along with the average metallicity of galactic matter in the universe (stars, gas and intergalactic medium). For the average metallicity of galaxies in the local universe, we find < Z>gal = 0.0175, i.e. close to the solar value. We find the main metal production in spheroids (ellipticals and bulges) to occur at very early times, implying an early peak in the metal production and a subsequent decrease. On the other hand, the metal production in spirals an
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