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History of the Elements of the Periodic Table Chemistry Tutorial

Key Concepts

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Discovery and Naming of the Elements

Atomic
Number
Name Symbol Year
Discovered
Discoverer Derivation of
Name/Symbol
1 hydrogen H 1766 Henry Cavendish From the Greek hydro for 'water' and genes for 'forming' as it burned in air to form water.

2 helium He 1868 Pierre-Jules-Cesar Janssen From the Greek helios for 'sun'. It was discovered by spectroscopy during a solar eclipse in the sun's chromosphere.

3 lithium Li 1818 Johan August Arfvedson From the Latin lithos for 'stone' because lithium was thought to exist only in minerals as it was first found in the mineral petalite.

4 beryllium Be 1798 Nicholas-Louis Vauquelin From the Greek berryllos for 'beryl' the gemstone in which it was first found.

5 boron B 1808 (isolated) Humphry Davy From the Arabic buraq for 'white'. It was first isolated in an impure state by Louis-Joseph Gay-Lussac and Louis-Jacques Thenard, but it was Humphry Davy who first prepared pure boron using electrolysis.

6 carbon C - known since ancient times From the Latin carbo for 'charcoal'. In 1797, Smithson Tennant showed that diamond is pure carbon.

7 nitrogen N 1772 Daniel Rutherford From the Latin nitrium and Greek nitron for 'native soda' and genes for 'forming' because it is found in potassium nitrate, saltpeter or nitre or native soda.

8 oxygen O 1774 Joseph Priestly From the Greek oxys for 'acid' and genes for 'forming' since Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier originally thought that oxygen was an acid producer because when he burnt phosphorus and sulfur and dissolved them in water they produced acids.

9 fluorine F 1886 (isolated) Ferdinand Frederic, Henri Moissan From the Latin fluere for 'flow or flux' as the mineral fluorspar was used as a flux in metallurgy because of its low melting point.

10 neon Ne 1898 Sir William Ramsay, Morris M. Travers From the Greek neos for 'new'.

11 sodium Na 1807 Sir Humphry Davy From the English soda and Latin sodanum for 'headache remedy'. The chemical symbol derives from the Latin natrium for soda.

12 magnesium Mg 1808 (separation from mineral) Sir Humphry Davy From Magnesia a district in Thessalia in northeastern Greece.

13 aluminium Al 1825 (isolated) Hans Christian Oersted From the Latin alum and alumen for 'stringent' since the early Romans called any substance with a stringent taste alum.

14 silicon Si 1924 Jons Jacob Berzelius From the Latin silex and silicis for 'flint'. Originally it was thought to be a metal and called silicium, when this was shown to be wrong the name was changed to silicon.

15 phosphorus P 1669 Hennig Brand From the Greek phosphorus for 'bringing light' as white phosphorus oxidises spontaneously in air and glows in the dark.

16 sulfur
(sulphur)
S - known since ancient times From Latin sulfurium and the Sanskrit sulveri. Sulfur was known as brenne stone, combustible stone, from which brim-stone is derived.

17 chlorine Cl 1774 Carl Wilhelm Scheele From the Greek chloros for 'pale green', the colour of the element.

18 argon Ar 1894 Sir William Ramsay, Lord Raleigh From the Greek argos for 'lazy' because it does not combine with other elements.

19 potassium K 1807 (isolated) Sir Humphry Davy From the English potash as it was found in caustic potash (KOH). The chemical symbol derives from the Latin kalium via the Arabic qali for alkali.

20 calcium Ca 1808 (isolated) Sir Humphry Davy From the Latin calx for 'lime or limestone' in which it is found.

21 scandium Sc 1879 Lars Fredrik Nilson From the Latin scandia for Scandanavia where the mineral was found.

22 titanium Ti 1791 The Reverend William Gregor From the Latin titans, mythological first sons of the earth.

23 vanadium V 1801/1830 Andres Manuel del Rio y Fernandez/Nils Gabriel Sefstrom From the Scandanavian Freyja Vanadis, goddess of love and beauty, because of its many beautiful coloured compounds.

24 chromium Cr 1797 Louis-Nicholas Vauquelin From the Greek chroma for 'colour' as there are many coloured compounds of chromium.

25 manganese Mn 1774 (isolated) Johan Gottlieb Gahn From the Latin magnes for 'magnet' since the mineral pyrolusite (MnO2) has magnetic properties.

26 iron Fe - known since ancient times From the Anglo Saxon iron. The symbol is derived form the Latin ferrum for 'firmness'.

27 cobalt Co 1739 Georg Brandt From the German kobold for 'evil spirits' who were thought to cause miners problems since the mineral contained the element arsenic which was detrimental to their health.

28 nickel Ni 1751 Axel Fredrik Cronstedt From the German nickel for 'deceptive spirit' as miners called the mineral niccolite kupfernickel (false copper) as it resembled copper ores in appearance but no copper was found in the ore.

29 copper Cu - known since ancient times From the Latin cuprum for 'Cyprus' where the Romans first obtained copper.

30 zinc Zn - known since ancient times From the German zink.

31 gallium Ga 1875 Paul-Emile Lecoq de Boisbaudran From the Latin gallia for France, or possibly from the Latin gallus for 'le coq or cock' after its Fench discoverer. Predicted by Mendeleev who called it eka-aluminium.

32 germanium Ge 1886 Clemens Winkler From the Latin germania for Germany after its German discoverer. Predicted by Mendeleev who called it eka-silicon.

33 arsenic As - known since ancient times From the Latin arsenicum and the Greek arsenikos for the yellow arsenic ore, sounds similar to the Greek arsenikon for 'male or potent' possibly referring to its toxicity.

34 selenium Se 1817 Jons Jacob Berzelius From the Greek Selene, goddess of the moon, because the element is found with tellurium (named after Tellus, Roman goddess of the earth).

35 bromine Br 1826 Antoine-Jerome Balard From the Greek bromos for 'stench'.

36 krypton Kr 1898 Sir William Ramsay, Morris M. Travers From the Greek kryptos for 'hidden'.

37 rubidium Rb 1861 Robert Bunsen, Gustav Kirchoff From the Latin rubidus for deepest red because of the two deep red lines in its spectrum.

38 strontium Sr 1792 Thomas Charles Hope From Strontian a town in Scotland where the mineral strontianite is found.

39 yttrium Y 1794 Johan Gadolin From the Swedish village of Ytterby where the mineral gadolinite (ytterbite) was found.

40 zirconium Zr 1789 Martin Heinrich Klaproth From the Arabic zargun for 'gold-like'.

41 niobium Nb 1801 Charles Hatchett From the Greek Niobe, daughter of Tantalus, since the elements niobium and tantalum were originally thought to be identical elements.

42 molybdenum Mo 1778 Carl Welhelm Scheele From the Greek molybdos for 'lead' as the ancient Greeks used this term for any black mineral which left a mark.

43 technetium Tc 1937 (synthesised) Carlo Perrier, Emilio Segre From the Greek technetos for 'artificial'.

44 ruthenium Ru 1844 (isolated) Karl Karlovich Klaus From the latin ruthenia, the old name for Russia.

45 rhodium Rh 1803 William Hyde Wollaston From the Greek rhodon for rose because of the rose coloured solutions of its salts.

46 palladium Pd 1803 William Hyde Wollaston From the second largest asteroid of the Solar System, Pallus, named after the goddess of wisdom and arts, Pallas Athene, as the element was discovered 1 year after the discovery of the asteroid.

47 silver Ag - known since ancient times From the Anglo-Saxon seofor and siolfur. The chemical symbol derives from the Latin argentum and Sanskrit argunas for 'bright'.

48 cadmium Cd 1817 Friedrich Strohmeyer From the Greek kadmeia for 'calamine, zinc carbonate' as it was found as an impurity with zinc carbonate in nature.

49 indium In 1863 Ferdinand Reich, Hieronymus Theodor Richter From indigo for the indigo-blue line in the element's spectrum.

50 tin Sn - known since ancient times From the Anglo-Saxon tin. The chemical symbol is derived from the Latin stannum for alloys containing lead.

51 antimony Sb - known since ancient times From the Greek anti and monos for 'not alone' because it was found in many compounds. The symbol Sb comes from the original name, stibium.

52 tellurium Te 1782 Franz Joseph Muller von Reichenstein From the Latin Tellus, Roman goddess of the earth.

53 iodine I 1811 Barnard Courtois From the Greek ioeides for 'violet coloured' because of its violet vapours.

54 xenon Xe 1898 Sir William Ramsay, Morris M. Travers From the Greek xenon for 'stranger'.

55 caesium
(cesium)
Cs 1860 Robert Wilhelm Bunsen, Gustav Robert Kirchoff From the Latin caesius for 'sky blue colour' which was the colour of the caesium line in the spectroscope.

56 barium Ba 1808 (isolated) Sir Humphry Davy From the Greek barys for 'heavy' as it was found in the mineral heavy spar.

57 lanthanum La 1839 Carl Gustaf Mosander From the Greek lanthanein 'to escape notice' because it hid in cerium ore and was difficult to separate out.

58 cerium Ce 1803 Jons Jacob Berzelius, Wilhelm von Hisinger, Martin Heinrich Klaproth From the planetoid Ceres which was named after the Roman goddess of agriculture.

59 praseodymium Pr 1885 Carl F. Auer von Welsbach From the Greek prasios for 'green' and didymos for 'twin' because of the pale green salts it forms. Carl F. Auer von Welsbach separated praseodymium and neodymium from a didymium sample.

60 neodymium Nd 1885 (isolated from mineral) Carl F. Auer von Welsbach From the Greek neos for 'new' and 'didymos' for twin after Carl Auer von Welsbach separated didymium into new elements, one of which he called neodymium.

61 promethium Pm 1944 (synthesised) Jacob A. Marinsky, Lawrence E. Glendenin, Charles D. Coryell From Prometheus who stole fire from heaven and gave it to the human race, since it was found by harnessing nuclear energy which is also a threat.

62 samarium Sm 1878 Marc Delafontaine From the mineral Samarskite in which it is found and which was named after Colonel von Samarski, a Russian mine official.

63 europium Eu 1896 (separation from mineral) Eugene-Antole Demarcay From the continent Europe. Demarcay isolated europium in 1901.

64 gadolinium Gd 1880 Jean Charles Galissard de Marignac From the mineral gadolinite in which it is found and which was named after Johan Gadolin.

65 terbium Tb 1843 Carl Gustaf Mosander From the village of Ytterby in Sweden where the mineral ytterbite was first found.

66 dysprosium Dy 1886 Paul-Emile Lecoq de Boisbaudran From the Greek dysprositos for 'hard to get at' because it is difficult to separate dysprosium from the holmium mineral in which it is found.

67 holmium Ho 1879 Per Theodor Cleve From the Latin holmia for Stockholm, or possibly after Holmberg who first isolated it.

68 erbium Er 1843 Carl Gustaf Mosander From the Swedish town of Ytterby where the ore gadolinite was first mined.

69 thulium Tm 1879 Per Theodor Cleve From Thule, the earliest name for Scandanavia.

70 ytterbium Yb 1878 Jean Charles Galissard de Marignac From the Swedish village of Ytterby where the mineral ytterbite was found.

71 lutetium Lu 1907 Georges Urbain From the Latin lutetia the Latin name for the city of Paris.

72 hafnium Hf 1923 Dirk Coster, Charles de Hevesy From the Latin hafnia for Copenhagen where it was first discovered.

73 tantalum Ta 1802 Anders Gustaf Ekeberg From the Greek tantalos, the mythological character who was banished to Hades unable to eat or drink, because the element was insoluble in acids.

74 tungsten W 1783 (isolated) Don Juan Jose and Don Fausto d'Elhuyar From the Swedish tung sten for 'heavy stone'. The chemical symbol is derived from the German wolfram which was found with tin and interferred with the smelting of tin, it was said to eat up tin like a wolf eats up sheep.

75 rhenium Re 1925 Ida Tacke-Noddack, Walter Noddack, Otto Carl Berg From the Latin rhenus for the Rhine Ralley in Germany.

76 osmium Os 1803 Smithson Tennant From the Greek some for 'smell' because of the sharp odour of the volatile oxide.

77 iridium Ir 1803 Smithson Tennant From the Latin Iris, the Greek goddess of rainbows because of the variety of colours in the element's salt solutions.

78 platinum Pt 1735 Antonio de Ulloa From the Spanish platina for 'silver'.

79 gold Au - known since ancient times From the Sanskrit jval 'to shine'. The symbol Au derives from the Latin aurum for Aurora the Roman goddess of the dawn.

80 mercury Hg - known since ancient times From the Roman god Mercury, the messenger of the gods. The symbol derives from the Greek hydragyrium for 'liquid silver' or quick silver.

81 thallium Tl 1861 Sir William Crookes From the Greek thallos for 'green shoot' because of the bright green lines in its spectrum.

82 lead Pb - known since ancient times From Anglo Saxon lead. The symbol is derived from the Latin plumbum for 'lead'.

83 bismuth Bi 1753 Claude-Francois Geoffroy the Younger From the German weisse masse for 'white mass', the colour of its oxides.

84 polonium Po 1898 Pierre and Marie Curie From Poland, the native country of Marie Sklodowska Curie.

85 astatine At 1940 (synthesised) Dale R. Carson, K.R. MacKenzie, Emilio Segre From the Greek astatos for 'unstable' as it is an unstable element.

86 radon Rn 1900 Friedrich Ernst Dorn Originally called radium emanation, Em, because it was a decay product of radium. The name radon reflects its origin from radium.

87 francium Fr 1939 Marguerite Catherine Perey From France, the country in which it was first discovered.

88 radium Ra 1898 Marie Sklodowska Curie, Pierre Curie From the Latin radius for 'beam or ray' because of its ray-emitting power.

89 actinium Ac 1899 Andre-Louis Debierne From the Greek aktis or akinis for 'beam or ray' because it is a good source of alpha radiation.

90 thorium Th 1828 Jons Jacob Berzelius From Thor, Scandanavian god of thunder.

91 protactinium Pa 1913 Kasimir Fajans, O.H. Gohring Fajans named the element "brevium" because he detected only short-lived atoms.
1917 Lise Meitner
and
Otto Hahn
Meitner and Hahn discovered that most of the atoms of "brevium" had long life-times, so they renamed it protactinium, from the Greek protos for 'first' and actinium, since it was found to be the parent of actinium.

92 uranium U 1789 Martin Heinrich Klaproth From the planet Uranus named after the Roman 'Father Heaven', Uranus was discovered in 1781.

93 neptunium Np 1940 (synthesised) Edwin M. McMillan, Philip H. Abelson From Neptune, the Roman god of the sea, since it is the next outermost planet beyond Uranus in the Solar System and this element is the next one beyond Uranium in the Periodic Table of the Elements.

94 plutonium Pu 1941 (synthesised) Glenn T. Seaborg, Joseph W. Kennedy, Edward M. McMillan, Arthur C. Wohl From the planet Pluto, the Roman god of the underworld, as Pluto is the next planet in the Solar System beyond Neptune and the element plutonium is the next element beyond neptunium in the Periodic Table of the Elements.

95 americium Am 1944 (synthesised) Glenn T. Seaborg, Ralph A. James, Leon O. Morgan, Albert Ghiorso From the analogy to europium the sixth element in the lanthanoid (lanthanide) series since americium is the sixth element in the actinoid (actinide) series.

96 curium Cm 1944 (synthesised) Glenn T. Seaborg, Ralph A. James, Albert Ghiorso From 'Pierre and Marie Curie' who discovered the elements radium and polonium.

97 berkelium Bk 1949 (synthesised) Glenn T. Seaborg, Stanley G. Thompson, Albert Ghiorso From Berkeley, California, where it was first synthesised.

98 californium Cf 1950 (synthesised) Stanley G. Thompson, Glenn T. Seaborg, Kenneth Street, Jr., Albert Ghiorso From the state and university of California where the element was first synthesised.

99 einsteinium Es 1952 (synthesised) Albert Ghiorso From 'Albert Einstein'. Eisteinium-252 first found in the debris of thermonuclear weapons.

100 fermium Fm 1952 (synthesised) Albert Ghiorso From Enrico Fermi, the physicist who built the first nuclear reactor. First found in the debris of a thermonuclear weapon explosion.

101 mendelevium Md 1955 (synthesised) Stanley G. Thompson, Glenn T. Seaborg, Barnard G. Harvey, Gregory R. Choppin, Albert Ghiorso From Dimitri Mendeleev who developed the Periodic Table of the Elements. Original chemical symbol was My but was changed in 1955.

102 nobelium No 1958 (synthesised) Albert Ghiorso, Glenn T. Seaborg, Torbjorn Sikkeland, John R. Walton From Alfred Nobel the discoverer of dynamite and founder of the Nobel Prize.

103 lawrencium Lr 1961 (synthesised) Albert Ghiorso, Torbjorn Sikkeland, Almon E. Larsh, Robert M. Latimer From Ernest O. Lawrence who developed the cyclotron. The original symbol was Lw but was changed to Lr.

104 rutherfordium RE 1964/1969 (synthesised) Russian Scientists at Dubna/Albert Ghiorso From Ernest Rutherford who developed a theory of radioactive transformations.

105 dubnium Db 1967/1970 (synthesised) Russian Scientists in Dubna/Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory From the location of the Russian research centre in Dubna.

106 seaborgium Sg 1974 (synthesised) Albert Ghiorso From Glenn Theodore Seaborg who led the team that first synthesised a number of transuranic elements.

107 bohrium Bh 1981 (synthesised) Centre for Heavy-Ion Research , Germany From Neils Bohr who developed a theory of the electronic structure of the atom.

108 hassium Hs 1984 (synthesised) Peter Armbruster, Gottfried Munzenber From the Latin hassia for the German state of Hesse whose former capital was Darmstadt where the element was first synthesised.

109 meitnerium Mt 1980 (synthesised) Peter Armbruster, Gottfried Munzenber From Lise Meitner who discovered protactinium.

110 darmstadtium Ds 1994 (synthesised) Peter Armbruster, Gottfried Munzenber From Darmstadt the region where the research centre is located.

111 roentgenium Rg 1994 (synthesised) multinational team of scientists at the Heavy Ion Research Centre, Darmstadt, Germany From Roentgen, discoverer of X-rays.

112 copernicium Cn 1996 (synthesised) multinational team of scientists at the Heavy Ion Research Centre, Darmstadt, Germany Name proposed in 2009, the International Year of Astronomy, after Nicolaus Copernicus who postulated that the Earth orbits the Sun.

113 nihonium Nh 2004 Japenese RIKEN scientists (priority of discovery over JINR) Named after the Japenese word for Japan, Nihon.

114 flerovium Fl 1998 (synthesised) multinational team of scientists at the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research, Dubna, Russia Named after the Flerov Laboratory which is itself named after Russian physicist Georgy Flyorov

115 moscovium Mc 2003 (synthesised) Joint Institute for Nuclear Research (JINR), Dubna, Russia Named after the Moscow oblast where JINR is located.

116 livermorium Lv 2000 (synthesised) multinational team of scientists at the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research, Dubna, Russia Named after the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, USA

117 tennessine Ts 2010 (synthesised) Joint Institute for Nuclear Research (JINR), Dubna, Russia Named after Tennessee in USA.

118 oganesson Og 2002 (synthesised) Joint Institute for Nuclear Research (JINR), Dubna, Russia Named after nuclear physicist Yuri Oganessian.

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