List of people whose names are used in chemical element names
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Below is the list of people whose names are used in chemical element names. Of the 118 chemical elements, 19 are connected with the names of 20 people. 15 elements were named to honor 16 scientists. Four other elements have indirect connection to the names of non-scientists. On top of this, a 21st person, a 17th scientist, has an implied connection to a 20th element (see below). Only gadolinium and samarium occur in nature (along with gallium). The rest are synthetic.
The following 19 elements are connected to the names of people. Seaborg and Oganessian were the only two who were alive at the time of being honored with having elements named after them. The four non-scientists in this table are connected with elements that were not named to honor the individual directly, but rather were named for a place or thing which in turn had been named for these people. Samarium was named for the mineral samarskite from which it was isolated. Americium, berkelium and livermorium were named after places that had been named for them. The cities of Berkeley, California and Livermore, California are the locations of the University of California Radiation Laboratory and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, respectively. There is an implied connection to the naming of the latter element, because Ernest Lawrence is a co-namesake for the Lawrence Livermore Lab along with Robert Livermore, and the lab was singly named after Lawrence for more than a decade before it was renamed to include Livermore's name. Unlike Livermore who was a landowner, Lawrence was a nuclear scientist. So Lawrence's name is listed twice in the table below, with the second listing being parenthetical because of this implication inherent in the lab name, after the element named directly in his honor. Americium is unique in being the only element associated with a person's first name, and not a family name.
Another implied connection between a scientist and the naming of an element occurs between Paul-Émile Lecoq de Boisbaudran and his discovery and subsequent naming of element 31. He chose the name gallium from the Latin Gallia meaning Gaul, which honors his homeland of France. But in his own name, "Le coq" is French for "the rooster" and the Latin word for "rooster" is "gallus". So in spite of his denial of this being a reason for his choice of name, the connotation between the element and the discoverer's name remains (more at Gallium#History).
"Indirect?" - Indirect or implied connection between the element name and the person's name, indicating that the choice of element name did not have a primary purpose of honoring the person's name. These five elements were named primarily for a place or thing that happened to have a name connected to these people.
Other element names have been proposed but failed to gain official international recognition. These include columbium (Cb) and hahnium (Ha), names connected to Christopher Columbus and Otto Hahn (more at the article on element naming controversies).
Also, mythological entities have had a significant impact on the naming of elements. Helium, titanium, selenium, palladium, promethium, cerium, europium, mercury, thorium, uranium, neptunium and plutonium are all given names connected to mythological deities. With these five, that connection is indirect:
- helium: named for the Sun where it was discovered, being associated with the deity Helios,
- selenium: named for the Moon being associated with the deity Selene,
- palladium: named for the then-recently discovered asteroid Pallas which had been named for the deity Pallas Athena,
- cerium: named for the then-recently discovered asteroid Ceres which had been named for the deity Ceres,
- europium: named for the continent that had been named after the deity Europa.
Titanium is unique in the list above in that it refers to a group of deities rather than any particular individual. So Helios, Selene, Pallas, and Prometheus actually have two elements named in their honor.
And for elements given a name connected with a group, there is also xenon, named for the Greek word ξένον (xenon), neuter singular form of ξένος (xenos), meaning 'foreign(er)', 'strange(r)', or 'guest'. Its discoverer William Ramsay intended this name to be an indication of the qualities of this element in analogy to the generic group of people.
- List of scientists whose names are used as SI units
- List of scientists whose names are used as non SI units
- List of scientists whose names are used in physical constants
- List of places used in the names of chemical elements
- List of chemical element name etymologies
- Naming of elements
- List of chemical elements
- Kevin A. Boudreaux. "Derivations of the Names and Symbols of the Elements". Angelo State University.
- Anonymous (1904). Daniel Coit Gilman; Harry Thurston Peck; Frank Moore Colby, eds. The New International Encyclopædia. Dodd, Mead and Company. p. 906.
- Staff (1991). The Merriam-Webster New Book of Word Histories. Merriam-Webster, Inc. p. 513. ISBN 0-87779-603-3.