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Ausonium (atomic symbol Ao) was the name assigned to the element with atomic number 93, now known as neptunium. It was named after a Greek name of Italy, Ausonia.[1]

The same team assigned the name hesperium to element 94, after Hesperia, a poetic name of Italy.[2] (Element 94 was later named plutonium).

The discovery of the element, now discredited, was made by Enrico Fermi and a team of scientists at the University of Rome in 1934. In the same year Ida Noddack had already presented alternative explanations for the experimental results of Fermi.[3] Following the discovery of nuclear fission in 1938, it was realized that Fermi's discovery was actually a mixture of barium, krypton, and other elements. The actual element was discovered several years later, and assigned the name neptunium.[2]

Fascist authorities wanted one of the elements to be named littorio after the Roman lictores who carried the fasces, a symbol appropriated by Fascism.[2]


  1. ^ Fermi, E. (1934). "Possible Production of Elements of Atomic Number Higher than 92". Nature. 133 (3372): 898–899. Bibcode:1934Natur.133..898F. doi:10.1038/133898a0.
  2. ^ a b c Sime, Ruth Lewin (2000). "The Search for Transuranium Elements and the Discovery of Nuclear Fission". Physics in Perspective. 2 (1): 48–62. Bibcode:2000PhP.....2...48S. doi:10.1007/s000160050036.
  3. ^ Noddack, Ida (1934). "Über das Element 93". Angewandte Chemie. 47 (37): 653. doi:10.1002/ange.19340473707.