The Transfermium Wars

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


With the rival discovery claims in the early 1970 of the first transactinide elements, numbers 104 and 105 in the periodic table, the situation with regard to official recognition of new elements became increasingly chaotic. Definite criteria for discovery and naming procedures were needed. As a result, a Transfermium Working Group (TWG) was established in 1985 jointly by IUPAC and IUPAP. The TWG reports of 1991 and 1992, including discovery criteria as well as evaluations of specific discovery claims, were controversial and central parts of what in some quarters became known as the “transfermium wars.” The so-called wars were basically an extended priority dispute which lasted until the late 1990s. The name of element 106, eventually settled to be seaborgium, played an important role in the transfermium warfare. Although the Cold War had officially ended, its shadows were visible in the rivalry between American and Russian scientists.


Discovery criteria Priority disputes IUPAC Element names Seaborgium Transfermium working group 


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© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Niels Bohr ArchiveNiels Bohr InstituteCopenhagenDenmark

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