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Element naming controversy

The names for the chemical elements 104 to 108 have been the subject of a major controversy starting in the 1960s which was only finally resolved in 1997. At issue was the convention that elements are named by their discoverers which led to controversy when multiple groups claimed discovery simultaneously. The three groups which conflicted over elemental naming were an American group at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, a Russian group at Dubna, and a German group at Darmstadt.

The names preferred by the Americans were

104 - rutherfordium
105 - hahnium
106 - seaborgium

The names preferred by the Russians were
104 - kurchatovium
105 - nielsbohrium

Element 104 was named after Igor Kurchatov who was father of the Russian atomic bomb, and this was one reason the name was objectionable to the Americans. The American name to 106 was objectionable to some because Glenn T. Seaborg was still alive.

In 1994, the IUPAC proposed the following names

104 - dubnium
105 - joliotium
106 - rutherfordium
107 - bohrium
108 - hahnium
109 - meitnerium

This attempted to resolve the dispute by replacing the name for 104 with a name after the Dubna research center, and to not name 106 after Seaborg.

This was objected to by the American Chemical Society on the grounds that the discovery of 106 by an American group was not in question and that group should have the right to name the element whatever it wanted to. In addition, given that many American books had already used 104 and 105 for rutherfordium and hahnium, the ACS objected to those names being used for other elements.

Finally in 1997, the following names were agreed to

104 - rutherfordium
105 - dubnium
106 - seaborgium
107 - bohrium
108 - hassium
109 - meitnerium

But Glenn T. Seaborg went to his grave disputing the name change for #105 and was adamant about it remaining known as hahnium. His reason concerning Dubna in Russia was that they made a false claim on an element that they got credit. When the Dubna group finally did release some data on the experiment, Seaborg proved that it was a misreading of the decay pattern of their product. Even then, the Dubna group still refused to remove their claim. The group at Berkeley labs and others still refer to it as hahnium.

See also: Systematic element name