Foundations of Chemistry

, Volume 10, Issue 1, pp 13–18 | Cite as

Naming elements after scientists: an account of a controversy

  • Geoff Rayner-CanhamEmail author
  • Zheng Zheng


Over the last two hundred years, there have been many occasions where the name of a newly-discovered element has provoked controversy and dissent but in modern times, the naming of elements after scientists has proved to be particularly contentious. Here we recount the threads of this story, predominantly through discourses in the popular scientific journals, the first major discussion on naming an element after a scientist (Moseley); the first definitive naming after a scientist (Curie); and the first naming after a living scientist (Seaborg).


Periodic table Nomenclature Elements Moseleyum Curium Seaborgium 


  1. Anon: Scientific events: moseleyum and the names of elements. Science 61, 510 (1925)Google Scholar
  2. Anon: Discovery of the transfermium elements. Chem. Int. 16, 16–17 (1994)Google Scholar
  3. Anon: Naming the transfermium elements. Chem. Int. 17, 3–5 (1995)Google Scholar
  4. Anon: IUPAC proposes names for transfermium elements. Chem. Int. 19, 68–69 (1997)Google Scholar
  5. Anon: Seaborgium: element 106 named in honor of Glenn T. Seaborg, LBL’s Associate Director at large. LBL Research Review, August 1994, available at: Cited 9 March 2007
  6. Bosenquet, C., Keeley, C.: Note on a search for the missing element no. 43. Phil. Mag. Ser. 6 48, 154–157 (1924)Google Scholar
  7. Brown, S.S.: History of IUPAC 1988–1999, IUPAC (2001)Google Scholar
  8. Dagani, R.: Heavy-element nomenclature: ACS panel rejects names chosen by IUPAC. Chem. Eng. News. 72, 8 (21 November 1994a)Google Scholar
  9. Dagani, R.: Shuffling of heavy-element names by IUPAC panel provokes outcries. Chem. Eng. News. 72, 8 (5 December 1994b)Google Scholar
  10. Fennell, R.W.: History of IUPAC 1919–1987. Blackwell Science (1994)Google Scholar
  11. Fernelius, W.C., Loening, K., Adams, R.M.: Notes on nomenclature: names for elements. J. Chem. Educ. 52, 583–584 (1975)Google Scholar
  12. Freemantle, M.: Heavy-element name saga ends. Chem. Eng. News. 75, 9–10 (8 September 1997)Google Scholar
  13. Freemantle, M., Dagani, R.: Heaviest elements named: IUPAC rejects ‘seaborgium’ for element 106. Chem. Eng. News. 72, 4–5 (10 October 1994)Google Scholar
  14. Hamer, R.: Moseleyum. Science 61, 208–209 (1925)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Heilbron, J.L.: H. G. J. Moseley. University of California Press, Berkeley (1974)Google Scholar
  16. Huheey, J.E.: Heavy-element nomenclature. Chem. Eng. News. 73, 4 (16 January 1995)Google Scholar
  17. Kaesz, H.: The synthesis and naming of elements 110 and beyond. Chem. Int. 24(2), Cited 23 September 2007
  18. Koppenol, W.: H. Paneth, IUPAC, and the naming of elements. Helvetica Chimica Acta 88, 95–99 (2005)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Masson, I.: Letter to the editor. Nature 137, 545 (1925)Google Scholar
  20. Paneth, F.A.: The making of the missing chemical elements. Nature 159, 8–10 (1947)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Seaborg, G.T., Seaborg, E.: Adventures in the atomic age: from Watts to Washington, p. 254. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York (2001), Google Scholar
  22. Tripathi, S.K.: Heavy-element nomenclature. Chem. Eng. News 73, 5 (16 January 1995)Google Scholar
  23. van der Krogt, P.: Elementymology & elements multidict: names that did not make it. Cited 9 March 2007
  24. Weeks, M.E., Leicester, H.M.: Discovery of the chemical elements (7th ed.). J. Chem. Educ., pp. 820–823. Easton, PA (1968), together with the cited references 16 and 24, p. 828Google Scholar
  25. Zamaraev, K.I.: IUPAC recommendations on names and symbols of transfermium elements. Chem. Int. 18, 34 (1996)Google Scholar
  26. Zingales, R.: From masurium to trinacrium: the troubled story of element 43. J. Chem. Educ. 82, 221–227 (2005)CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Chemistry Department, Sir Wilfred Grenfell CollegeMemorial UniversityCorner BrookCanada

Personalised recommendations