Vol. 39 No. 3 (1991)
Research Article

Politics and Nationalism in the Naming of Chemical Elements

Published 1991-09-01



The naming of chemical elements, whether discovered in antiquity or during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries or, more recently, artificially produced in laboratories, has typically been politically motivated. Names from geographical entities, such as nation-states, reflect nationalism, regionalism, or municipal pride. Nationalism also plays a role when elements are named for famous people. A new system, designed by chemists to name newly produced elements on a mnemonic basis, is also politically motivated, because it is designed to do away with international squabbles in naming, but it is unwieldy and subject to potential ridicule.


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