Failed Discovery Claims

Part of the SpringerBriefs in History of Science and Technology book series (BRIEFSHIST)


Without suggesting a name, in 1971 Amnon Marinov and collaborators announced to have detected element 112 by bombarding a tungsten target with high-energy protons. The discovery claim was not accepted by specialists in the synthesis of superheavy elements who were unable to replicate the experiment. Nonetheless, Marinov and members of his group insisted that they had discovered the element. They later claimed to have found long-lived nuclides of element 122 in natural samples, a claim which was also not accepted. The other case described in the chapter is quite different in substance but also concerns a failed discovery claim. The announcement in 1999 that a research group in Berkeley had produced element 118 turned out to be based on false data, namely fraud committed by Viktor Ninov, a member of the group. The Ninov affair caused much alarm, not only in the scientific community but also generally. Element 118 was eventually synthesised, but only in 2016 was its existence officially approved.


Superheavy elements Amnon Marinov Viktor Ninov Scientific misconduct Element 112 Element 118 


  1. Anders, E., Heymann, D.: Elements 112 to 119: were they present in metorites? Science 164, 821–823 (1969)ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Anon.: Results of element 118 experiment retracted. Berkeley Lab Research News, 27 July 2001.
  3. Armbruster, P., Münzenberg, G.: An experimental paradigm opening up the world of superheavy elements. Eur. Phys. J. H 37, 237–309 (2012)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Barber, R.C., et al.: Discovery of the transfermium elements. Prog. Part. Nucl. Phys. 29, 453–530 (1992)ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Barber, R.C., et al.: Discovery of the element with atomic number 112. Pure Appl. Chem. 81, 1331–1343 (2009)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Barber, R.C., De Laeter, J.R.: Comment on ‘Existence of long-lived isomeric states in naturally-occurring neutron-deficient Th isotopes’. Phys. Rev. C 79, 049801 (2009)ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Batty, C.J.: Search for superheavy elements produced by secondary reactions in a tungsten target. Nature 244, 429–430 (1973)ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bauer, H.H.: ‘Pathological science’ is not scientific misconduct (nor is it pathological). Hyle 8, 5–20 (2002)Google Scholar
  9. Bieber, C. (2009): Element 112 joins the periodic table. New Sci. 202, 10, 20 June 2009Google Scholar
  10. Bimbot, R.: Complete fusion induced by krypton ions: indications for synthesis of superheavy nuclei. Nature 234, 215–216 (1971)ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Brandt, R.: Comments on the question of the discovery of element 112 as early as 1971. Kerntechnik 70, 170–172 (2005)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Browne, M.W.: Team adds 2 new elements to the periodic table. New York Times, 9 June 1999Google Scholar
  13. Brumfiel, G.: The heaviest element yet? Nature, 1 May 2008.
  14. Brush, S.G.: Making 20th Century Science: How Theories Became Knowledge. Oxford University Press, Oxford (2015)MATHGoogle Scholar
  15. Buchhaupt, S.: Die Gesellschaft für Schwerionenforschung. Campus Verlag, Frankfurt am Main (1995)Google Scholar
  16. Dean, T.: Higher, higher! New Sci. 199(2666), 32–35 (2008)Google Scholar
  17. Dellinger, F., et al.: Ultrasensitive search for long-lived superheavy nuclides in the mass-range A = 288 to A = 300 in natural Pt, Pb, and Bi. Phys. Rev. C 83, 065806 (2011a)ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Dellinger, F., et al.: Upper limits for the existence of long-lived isotopes of roentgenium in natural gold. Phys. Rev. C 83, 015801 (2011b)ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Fontani, M., Costa, M., Orna, M.V.: The Lost Elements: The Periodic Table’s Shadow Side. Oxford University Press, Oxford (2015)Google Scholar
  20. Geisler, F.H., Philips, P.R., Walker, R.M.: Search for superheavy elements in natural and proton-irradiated materials. Nature 244, 428–429 (1973)ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Gilead, A.: Eka-elements as chemical pure possibilities. Found. Chem. 18, 183–194 (2016)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Goodstein, D.: On Fact and Fraud: Cautionary Tales from the Front Lines of Science. Princeton University Press, Princeton (2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hoffman, D.C.: The new millennium. Chem. Eng. News 78(13), 36–42 (2000)Google Scholar
  24. Hoffman, D.C., Ghiorso, A., Seaborg, G.T.: Transuranium People: The Inside Story. Imperial College Press, London (2000)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Hofmann, S.: On Beyond Uranium: Journey to the End of the Periodic Table. Taylor & Francis, London (2002)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Hofmann, S., et al.: The new element 112. Z. Phys. A 354, 229–230 (1996)ADSGoogle Scholar
  27. Hofmann, S., et al.: New results on elements 111 and 112. Eur. Phys. J. A 14, 147–157 (2002)ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Jacoby, M.: Fraud in the physical sciences. Chem. Eng. News 80, 31–33 (2002)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Johnson, G.: At Lawrence Berkeley, physicists say a colleague took them for a ride. New York Times D1, 15 October 2002Google Scholar
  30. Karol, P.J., et al.: On the discovery of the elements 110–112. Pure Appl. Chem. 73, 959–967 (2001)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Karol, P.J., et al.: On the claims for discovery of elements 110, 111, 112, 114, 116, and 118. Pure Appl. Chem. 75, 1601–1611 (2003)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Karol, P.J., et al.: Discovery of the element with atomic number Z = 118 and completing the 7th row of the periodic table. Pure Appl. Chem. 88, 155–160 (2016)Google Scholar
  33. Kirby, K., Houle, F.A.: Ethics and the welfare of the physics profession. Phys. Today 57(November), 42–46 (2004)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Koppenol, W.H., et al.: How to name new elements. Pure Appl. Chem. 88, 401–405 (2016)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Korschinek, G., Kutschera, W.: Mass spectrometric searches for superheavy elements in terrestrial matter. Nucl. Phys. A 944, 190–203 (2015)ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Kragh, H.: Elements no. 70, 71 and 72: Discoveries and controversies. In: Evans, C.H. (ed.) Episodes from the History of the Rare Earth Elements, pp. 67–90. Kluwer Academic, Dordrecht (1996)Google Scholar
  37. LeVay, S.: When Science Goes Wrong: Twelve Tales From the Dark Side of Discovery. Monday Books, Reading (2009)Google Scholar
  38. Marinov, A., et al.: Evidence for the possible existence of a superheavy element with atomic number 112. Nature 229, 464–467 (1971a)ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Marinov, A., et al.: Spontaneous fission previously observed in a mercury source. Nature 234, 212–215 (1971b)ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Marinov, A., Eshar, S., Weil, J.L.: Production of actinides by secondary reactions in the bombardment of a tungsten target with 24 GeV protons. In: Lodhi, M. (ed.) Superheavy Elements. Proceedings of the International Symposium on Superheavy Elements, pp. 72–80. Pergamon, New York (1978a)Google Scholar
  41. Marinov, A., Eshar, S., Aspector, B.: Study of Au, Tl and Pb sources separated from tungsten targets that were irradiated with 24 GeV protons, indications for the possible production of superheavy elements. In: Lodhi, M. (ed.) Proceedings of the International Symposium on Superheavy Elements, pp. 81–88. Pergamon, New York (1978b)Google Scholar
  42. Marinov, A., Gelberg, S., Kolb, D.: Abnormal radioactive decays out of long-lived super- and hyper-deformed isomeric states. Acta Phys. Hung. 13, 133–137 (2001)ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Marinov, A., et al.: Consistent interpretation of the secondary-reaction experiments in W targets and prospects for production of superheavy elements in ordinary heavy-ion reactions. Phys. Rev. Lett. 52, 2209–2212 (1984)ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Marinov, A., et al.: Response to the IUPAC/IUPAP joint working party second report (2004). arXiv:nucl-ex/0411017
  45. Marinov, A., et al.: Reply to ‘Comment on “Existence of long-lived isomeric states in naturally-occurring neutron-deficient Th isotopes”’. Phys. Rev. C 79, 0498802 (2009)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Marinov, A., Kolb, D., Weil, J.L.: Response to ‘Discovery of the element with atomic number 112’ (2009). arXiv:nucl-ex/09091057
  47. Marinov, A., et al.: Evidence for the possible existence of a long-lived superheavy nucleus with atomic mass number A = 292 and atomic number Z ≅ 122 in natural Th. Int. J. Mod. Phys. E 19, 131–140 (2010)ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Marinov, A., et al.: Enrichment of the superheavy element roentgenium (Rg) in natural Au. Int. J. Mod. Phys. E 20, 2391–2401 (2011a)ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Marinov, A., et al.: ICP-SFMS search for long-lived naturally-occurring heavy, superheavy and superactinide nuclei compared to AMS experiments. Int. J. Mod. Phys. E 20, 2403–2406 (2011b)ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Meija, J.: The need for a fresh symbol to designate copernicium. Nature 461, 341 (2009)ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Monastersky, R.: Atomic lies. The Chronicle of Higher Education, 16 August 2002.
  52. Muir, H.: Elementary mistake due to falsified data. New Sci., 15 July 2002.
  53. Ninov, V., et al.: Observation of superheavy nuclei produced in the reaction of Kr-86 with Pb-208. Phys. Rev. Lett. 83, 1104–1107 (1999)ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Öhrström, L., Reedijk, J.: Names and symbols of the elements with atomic numbers 113, 115, 117 and 118. Pure Appl. Chem. 88, 1225–1229 (2016)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Oganessian, YuT, et al.: Heavy element research at Dubna. Nucl. Phys. A 734, 109–123 (2004)ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Oganessian, YuT, et al.: Synthesis of the isotopes of elements 118 and 116 in the 249Cf and 245Cm + 48Ca fusion reactions. Phys. Rev. C 74, 044602 (2006)ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Schwarzschild, B.: Lawrence Berkeley lab concludes that evidence of element 118 was a fabrication. Phys. Today 55(September), 15–17 (2002)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Smolańczyk, R.: Production of superheavy elements. Phys. Rev. C 60, 21301 (1999)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Trilling, G.: Co-authors are responsible too. Phys. World 16(June), 16 (2003)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Van Noorden, R.: Heaviest element claim criticised. Chem. World, 2 May 2008.
  61. Wapstra, A.H.: Criteria that must be satisfied for the discovery of a new chemical element to be recognized. Pure Appl. Chem. 63, 879–886 (1991)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Westgaard, L.: Search for super-heavy elements produced by secondary reactions in uranium. Nucl. Phys. A 192, 517–523 (1972)ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Zhdanov, G.B.: Search for transuranium elements (methods, results, and prospects). Sov. Phys. Usp. 16, 642–658 (1974)ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Niels Bohr ArchiveNiels Bohr InstituteCopenhagenDenmark

Personalised recommendations