Jacob A. Marinsky

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Jacob A. Marinsky
Jacob A Marinsky.jpg
Jacob A. Marinsky
Born(1918-04-11)11 April 1918
Died1 September 2005(2005-09-01) (aged 87)
Alma materUniversity at Buffalo, MIT
Known forco-discovery of promethium, Manhattan Project
Scientific career
InstitutionsClinton Laboratories

Jacob Akiba Marinsky (April 11, 1918, Buffalo, New York – September 1, 2005) was a chemist who was the co-discoverer of the element promethium.[1][2]


Marinsky was born in Buffalo, New York on April 11, 1918. He attended the University at Buffalo, entering at age 16[3] and receiving a bachelor's degree in chemistry in 1939.

During World War II he was employed as a chemist for the Manhattan Project, working at Clinton Laboratories (now Oak Ridge National Laboratory) from 1944 to 1946.[4] In 1945, together with Lawrence E. Glendenin and Charles D. Coryell, he isolated the previously undocumented rare earth element 61.[5] Marinsky and Glendenin produced promethium both by extraction from fission products and by bombarding neodymium with neutrons.[5][6] They isolated it using ion-exchange chromatography.[5] Publication of the finding was delayed until later due to the war. Marinsky and Glendenin announced the discovery at a meeting of the American Chemical Society in September 1947.[5][6][7] Upon the suggestion of Charles D. Coryell's wife Grace Coryell, the team named the new element for the mythical Prometheus, who stole fire from the gods and was punished for the act by Zeus.[5] They had also considered naming it "clintonium" for the facility where it was isolated.[8]

Marinsky was among the Manhattan Project scientists who in 1945 signed a petition against dropping an atomic bomb on Japan.[3]

He resumed his education after the war, obtaining a PhD in Nuclear and Inorganic Chemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1949. He worked in industrial research before joining the faculty of the University at Buffalo in 1957.[4] His research was concerned with nuclear inorganic chemistry, physicochemical studies of ion exchange, and polyelectrolyte and electrolyte systems. In the late 1960s when the university required faculty to sign an oath of loyalty to the United States, Marinsky refused, calling it a violation of civil liberties,[3] a position that caused some other faculty members to lose their jobs.[9] He retired in 1988, becoming a professor emeritus.[4]

In the early 1960s Marinsky was a Fulbright Research Scholar at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel. In 1990, he received the Clifford Furnas Memorial Award of the University at Buffalo, awarded to graduates whose scientific accomplishments brought prestige to the university.[3]

Marinsky died on September 1, 2005, from multiple myeloma.[4] He was buried in Pine Hill Cemetery in Buffalo.[10] He was married to the former Ruth Slick, who survived him, for 63 years. They were the parents of four daughters.[3][4]


  1. ^ Weeks, Mary Elvira (1956). The discovery of the elements (6th ed.). Easton, PA: Journal of Chemical Education.
  2. ^ Marshall, James L. Marshall; Marshall, Virginia R. Marshall (2016). "Rediscovery of the elements: The Rare Earths–The Last Member" (PDF). The Hexagon: 4–9. Retrieved 30 December 2019.
  3. ^ a b c d e Jacob Marinsky; co-discoverer of promethium, Associated Press, September 9, 2005
  4. ^ a b c d e Jeremy Pearce, Jacob Marinsky, 87, Dies; Isolated Promethium Ions, New York Times, September 8, 2005
  5. ^ a b c d e Reactor Chemistry - Discovery of Promethium Archived 2015-07-06 at the Wayback Machine, ORNL Review, Vol. 36, No. 1, 2003
  6. ^ a b Nervous Elements, Time magazine, September 29, 1947
  7. ^ Jacob A. Marinsky, Lawrence E. Glendenin, Charles D. Coryell: "The Chemical Identification of Radioisotopes of Neodymium and of Element 61", J. Am. Chem. Soc., 1947, 69 (11), pp. 2781–2785; doi:10.1021/ja01203a059.
  8. ^ Promethium Unbound: A New Element Archived 2008-12-06 at the Wayback Machine, ORNL Review Vol. 35, Nos. 3 and 4, 2002
  9. ^ Kenneth J. Heineman, Campus Wars: The Peace Movement at American State Universities in the Vietnam Era, NYU Press, 1994 ISBN 0-8147-3512-6, ISBN 978-0-8147-3512-1, pages 62-68.
  10. ^ Jacob A. Marinsky at Find a Grave