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Elemental upset.

The contentious grumbling over the naming of elements 104 through 109 of the periodic table has risen to an angry howl.

In what some chemists furiously call "a surprise move," a committee of the International Union of Pure & Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) recommended renaming several "transfermium" elements, those with atomic numbers above 100.

IUPAC's recommended element names revealed
Atomic Voting
number Name Symbol in favor(a)
101 Mendelevium Md 20
102 Nobelium No 20
103 Lawrencium Lr 20
104 Dubnium Db 19
105 Joliotium Jl 18
106 Rutherfordium Rf 18
107 Bohrium Bh 20
108 Hahnium Hn 19
109 Meitnerium Mt 20


(a)Voters were the 20 members of the International Union of Pure & Applied Chemistry's Commission on Nomenclature of Inorganic Chemistry.

This action has raised some eyebrows, largely because of the committee's rejection of the name seaborgium for element 106, which its discoverers had put forth in March (SN: 3/19/94, p.180).

The name honors Glenn T. Seaborg, a Nobel laureate who codiscovered plutonium and nine other heavy elements.

Controversies surrounding credit for the discoveries of elements 104, 105, and 106 have stewed for nearly 20 years, mostly involving competing claims by scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory in Berkeley, Calif., and the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna, Russia. In 1992, an international committee resolved the matter, giving U.s. and Russian scientists joint discovery credit for elemetns 104 and 105 and the Berkeley researchers credit for 106.

In keeping with the tradition that discoverers of an element may choose its name, the Berkeley team in March nominated Seaborg, associate director-at-large of the lab, for the honor. In August, however, IUPAC's Commission on Nomenclature of Inorganic Chemistry voted to adopt a rule that no element may bear the name of a living person and rejected the nomination.

In addition, the panel selected the name dubnium for element 104, joliotium for 105, and rutherfordium for 106. Elements 107 through 109 will bear the names bohrium, hahnium, and meitnerium, respectively.

The commission's actions still need approval by the IUPAC Council, which will meet in Guildford, England, in August 1995.

"The whole thing is absurd," says Albert Ghiorso, a physicist at Lawrence Berkeley and a codiscoverer of element 106. "Should we honor tradition or allow an ephemeral committee to impose its will on the scientific community? Who cares if the person is alive or dead? The name is what matters. This must be a political thing."

Seaborg, who is "disappointed," told SCIENCE NEWS that he nevertheless anticipates "widespread argument around the world over this action" and does not think "it will stand in the long run.

"The idea that an element has never been named after a living scientist is incorrect, since elements 99 and 100 were named einsteinium and fermium while Einstein and Fermi were alive, though the names were not sanctioned officially until after they had died.

"It's unprecedented," he adds. "It's the first time in history that the discoverers of an element have been denied the privilege of naming it.

"If I'd died last month, they probably would have kept the name," Seaborg said lightheartedly. "My main crime here is still being alive."
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Title Annotation:International Union of Pure and Allied Chemistry committee upset members of scientific community with its recommended names for elements 104 through 109
Publication:Science News
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Oct 22, 1994
Words:527
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