Big List: promethium
Posted: 16 October 2009 07:56 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Yes, the origin is obvious, but there is a bit of a backstory.

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Posted: 16 October 2009 08:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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At first I thought the Prometheus connection must be from its radioactivity, but Wikipedia has this: The name was suggested by Grace Mary Coryell, Charles Coryell’s wife, who felt that they were stealing fire from the gods.

Since this came from fission research, stealing fire from the gods seems an apt point of view, I think.

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Posted: 16 October 2009 09:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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The sound of the element’s name brought to my mind straight away that wonderful line of Othello’s as he stands brooding over the sleeping Desdemona, “I know not where is that Promethean heat, that can thy life relume.

Crafty Prometheus also tricked Zeus into accepting the bones rather than the meat in sacrificial offerings, thus letting mortals enjoy the meat themselves. He had a brother, Epimetheus, as foolish as Prometheus was cunning. The names can be translated as hindsight (Epimetheus) and foresight (Prometheus). Epimetheus was the one who, against the advice of his brother, accepted Pandora from Zeus as a gift. (The old tyrant had made her specifically to revenge himself on Prometheus and mankind after being shafted over fire and the bones.

Nobody spun a myth as well as those old Greeks!! (Thanks to Wikipedia for the info. Other than the fact that Prometheus had a foolish brother Epimetheus, I’d completely forgotten the story behind it.

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Posted: 17 October 2009 06:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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I didn’t include the bit about Mary Coryell because Wikipedia is Wikipedia and this item wasn’t footnoted. It’s plausible, but without citation it’s suspect.

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Posted: 17 October 2009 12:35 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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The item is footnoted as [6].

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Posted: 17 October 2009 02:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Huh?

The results were published in 1926, but the scientists claimed that the experiments were done in 1924.[3][4] [5][6][7][8] In the same year 1926 a group of scientists University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Smith Hopkins and Len Yntema published the discovery of element 61. They named it after the university illinium.[9][10][11] Neither of the two discoveries could be verified.

So several groups claimed to have produced the element, but they could not confirm their discoveries because of the difficulty of separating promethium from other elements. Promethium was first produced and proved to exist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in 1945 by Jacob A. Marinsky, Lawrence E. Glendenin and Charles D. Coryell by separation and analysis of the fission products of uranium fuel irradiated in the Graphite Reactor; however, being too busy with defense-related research during World War II, they did not announce their discovery until 1947.[12] The name promethium is derived from Prometheus, the Titan, in Greek mythology, who stole the fire from Mount Olympus and brought it down to mankind. The name was suggested by Grace Mary Coryell, Charles Coryell’s wife, who felt that they were stealing fire from the gods.

Footnote 6 is for something else entirely, and there is no footnote for the Coryell claim.

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Posted: 17 October 2009 09:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Myridon must be referring to the Charles D. Coryell wiki in which the same claim is made, which footnote 6 sources to this Oak Ridge National Laboratory Review article.

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Posted: 18 October 2009 06:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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That ORNL article is from 2003--nearly sixty years after the fact--has no references to sources, and there is no author given. It sounds like a bit a folklore that is passed around the lab. It may be true, but I still haven’t seen any convincing evidence.

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