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Chemistry International

The News Magazine of IUPAC

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Volume 41, Issue 3


IUPAC and the Naming of Elements

Ann E. Robinson
Published Online: 2019-06-14 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ci-2019-0314


It was once not uncommon for elements to have more than one name. Tungsten and wolfram. Columbium and niobium. Beryllium and glucinum. The multiple names were generally due to language differences, personal preference, and nationality. These different names were ultimately harmonized into a single set of names after World War II with the development of a standardized nomenclature for inorganic chemistry (IUPAC’s famous Red Book). At the same time, new elements ceased be to found in naturally-occurring substances. Rather, new elements began to be created in accelerators. The advent of synthesized elements raised new questions regarding the discovery of new elements. It also created a new set of challenges for their naming, one of the tasks of the old Commission on Nomenclature for Inorganic Chemistry (CNIC) of IUPAC. As we will see, to face these challenges the CNIC relied successively on the adjudication of the US National Research Council (US NRC) for the naming of promethium in 1948, and then on an ongoing partnership with the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP).


About the article

Ann E. Robinson

Ann E. Robinson < > is a historian of science researching the history of the periodic table and the heavy elements. She works in reference services at Harvard University’s Widener Library. orcid.org/0000-0003-2249-6273

Published Online: 2019-06-14

Published in Print: 2019-07-01

Citation Information: Chemistry International, Volume 41, Issue 3, Pages 44–45, ISSN (Online) 1365-2192, ISSN (Print) 0193-6484, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ci-2019-0314.

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