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).[1] Only gadolinium and samarium occur in nature (along with gallium). The rest are synthetic.

Table[edit]

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).

Element Individual(s)
Z Name Symbol Discovery Indirect? Name Specialty Lifespan Nationality
(31) (Gallium) (Ga) (1875) (implied)

(Paul-Émile Lecoq de Boisbaudran)

(Scientist) (1838-1912) (French)
62 Samarium Sm 1879 X

Vasili Samarsky-Bykhovets

Mining engineer 1803–1870 Russian
64 Gadolinium Gd 1886

Johan Gadolin

Scientist 1760–1852 Finnish
95 Americium Am 1944 X

Amerigo Vespucci

Explorer 1454-1512 Italian
96 Curium Cm 1944

Marie Curie
Pierre Curie

Scientist
Scientist
1867–1934
1859–1906
Polish-French
French
97 Berkelium Bk 1949 X

George Berkeley

Philosopher 1685-1753 Irish
99 Einsteinium Es 1952

Albert Einstein

Scientist 1879–1955 German-American
100 Fermium Fm 1952

Enrico Fermi

Scientist 1901–1954 Italian-American
101 Mendelevium Md 1955

Dmitri Mendeleev

Scientist 1834–1907 Russian
102 Nobelium No 1958

Alfred Nobel

Scientist 1833–1896 Swedish
103 Lawrencium Lr 1961

Ernest Lawrence

Scientist 1901–1958 American
104 Rutherfordium Rf 1964

Ernest Rutherford

Scientist 1871–1937 New Zealand-British
106 Seaborgium Sg 1974

Glenn T. Seaborg

Scientist 1912–1999 American
107 Bohrium Bh 1981

Niels Bohr

Scientist 1885–1962 Danish
109 Meitnerium Mt 1982

Lise Meitner

Scientist 1878–1968 Austrian-Swedish
111 Roentgenium Rg 1994

Wilhelm Röntgen

Scientist 1845–1923 German
112 Copernicium Cn 1996

Nicolaus Copernicus

Scientist 1473–1543 Polish-German
114 Flerovium Fl 1998

Georgy Flyorov

Scientist 1913–1990 Russian
116 Livermorium Lv 2000 X
(implied)

Robert Livermore
(Ernest Lawrence)

Land owner
(Scientist)
1799-1858
(1901-1958)
American
(American)
118 Oganesson Og 2002

Yuri Oganessian

Scientist 1933– Armenian-Russian

"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 connections[edit]

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'.[2][3] 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.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Kevin A. Boudreaux. "Derivations of the Names and Symbols of the Elements". Angelo State University. 
  2. ^ Anonymous (1904). Daniel Coit Gilman; Harry Thurston Peck; Frank Moore Colby, eds. The New International Encyclopædia. Dodd, Mead and Company. p. 906. 
  3. ^ Staff (1991). The Merriam-Webster New Book of Word Histories. Merriam-Webster, Inc. p. 513. ISBN 0-87779-603-3.