iridium

Iridium, element 77, was discovered in 1803 by English chemist Smithson Tennant. Tennant named the new element after the Greek goddess Iris, a messenger goddess, represented by the rainbow. Writing in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society in 1804, Tennant explains:

I should incline to call this metal Iridium, from the striking variety of colours which it gives, while dissolving in marine acid.1

The word iridescent also comes from the goddess’s name.

The chemical symbol for iridium is Ir.


1Oxford English Dictionary, iridium, 2nd Edition, 1989, Oxford University Press, accessed 3 November 2009, http://dictionary.oed.com/cgi/entry/50121124

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