Titanium, element number 22, is named for the Titans of Greek mythology. It was named by German chemist Martin Heinrich Klaproth in 1795. Klaproth had discovered and named uranium in 1789 and named this new discovery along the same lines. Titanium had been previously been found in some Cornish ores by British amateur geologist William Gregor in 1791, who recognized it as a new element. Klaproth, evidently unaware of Gregor’s discovery, independently found it again four years later. Despite Gregor’s earlier claim, it was Klaproth’s titanium, and not Gregor’s menakanet, that caught on and is used today.
Klaproth published his reasoning behind the name in 1795 in his book Beiträge zur Chemischen Kenntnis der Mineralkörper:
Diesem zufolge will ich den Namen für die gegenwärtige metallische Substanz, gleichergestalt wie bei dem Uranium geschehen, aus der Mythologie, und zwar von den Ursohnen der Erde, den Titanen, entlehnen, und benenne also dieses neue Metallgeschlecht: Titanium.
(In accordance with this I want to borrow the name for the present metallic substance, in the same manner as was done for uranium, from mythology, in fact from the original sons of the earth, the Titans, and thus name this new type of metal: titanium.)
The name’s first English appearance is the following year, in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society:
A new metal, named Titanium, lately announced in the German Journals.1
Titanium has the chemical symbol Ti, taken from the first two letters of its name.
Copyright 1997-2015, by David Wilton