promethium

Promethium, element 61, was discovered multiple times over the first half of the 20th century. The first was in 1924 by Italian scientists Luigi Rolla and Lorenzo Fernandes, who published their results in 1926. That year, Smith Hopkins and Len Yntema of the University of Illinois also announced discovery of the element. The American team dubbed the element illinium, after the university. From the 5 June 1926 issue of Nature:

X-ray analysis confirmed the theory and showed the presence of element number 61 in those fractions. [...] The name assigned to the element is Illinium (Il).1

But neither discovery could be confirmed.

Then in 1945, Jacob A. Marinsky, Lawrence E. Glendenin and Charles D. Coryell at Oak Ridge National Laboratory finally managed to isolate the element and have the results duplicated. They dubbed their discovery promethium. Due to the war, publication of the discovery was delayed for several years, and on 30 June 1948, the Syracuse [NY] Herald-Journal had this:

The two chemists chose the name prometheum for Prometheus, the Titan in Greek mythology who stole fire from heaven for mankind’s use.2

Promethium has the chemical symbol Pm.


1Oxford English Dictionary, illinium, 2nd Edition, 1989, Oxford University Press, accessed 16 October 2009, http://dictionary.oed.com/cgi/entry/50111959.

2Oxford English Dictionary, promethium, 3rd Edition, September 2009, Oxford University Press, accessed 16 October 2009, http://dictionary.oed.com/cgi/entry/50189861

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