First Person with an Element Named After Them in Their Lifetime

First Person with an Element Named After Them in Their Lifetime

Author: Vera KoesterORCID iD

Chemical elements, particularly synthetic ones discovered after around 1940, are occasionally named after individuals. However, it is rare for elements to be named after their discoverers, and only two have been named after individuals who were alive at the time of the naming. Do you know which?


Who is the first person to have an element named after them in their lifetime?

See answer

Glenn T. Seaborg: Element 106 – Seaborgium (Sg)

The element was first given the systematic name Unnilhexium (ordinal number 106). It was synthesized in September 1974 by a team led by Albert Ghiorso (1950–2010) and Glenn T. Seaborg (1912–1999) by bombarding Californium-249 with oxygen-18 nuclei [1,2]. They reported the isotope with mass number 263.

A team led by Georgi N. Fljorov (1913–1990) and Yuri Z. Organesjan (1933) obtained the isotope of element 106 with mass number 261 in June 1974 by bombarding lead-208 with chrome-54 nuclei.

The final name was given by IUPAC in 1997. It was controversial because Seaborg was still alive at the time.



And who is the second?

See answer

After Glenn T. Seaborg with seaborgium, Yuri Oganessian is only the second living scientist to have an element named after him: Element 118 – Oganesson (Og) [3]. It was officially named on November 28, 2016.



What other elements are named after scientists?

See answer

•    Bohrium (Niels Bohr)
•    Copernicium (Nicolaus Copernicus)
•    Curium (Marie and Pierre Curie)
•    Einsteinium (Albert Einstein)
•    Fermium (Enrico Fermi)
•    Flerovium (via the Flerov Laboratory of Nuclear Reactions after Georgy Flyorov)
•    Gadolinium (via the mineral gadolinite after Johan Gadolin)
•    Lawrencium (Ernest Lawrence)
•    Meitnerium (Lise Meitner)
•    Mendelevium (Dmitri Mendeleev)
•    Nobelium (Alfred Nobel)
•    Roentgenium (Wilhelm Röntgen)
•    Rutherfordium (Ernest Rutherford)
•    Samarium (Vasili Samarsky-Bykhovets)




[1] 75th Anniversary: Discovery of Plutonium, ChemistryViews 2015.

[2] 100th Birthday: Albert Ghiorso, ChemistryViews 2015.

[3] Klaus Roth, New Kids on the Table: Is Element 118 a Noble Gas? – Part 3, ChemistryViews 2018.

Also of Interest




  1. Pekka Pyykkö

    Were samarium (Sm) and gadolinium (Gd) named after minerals or persons?
    The short answer is: both.

    The article by (Mr) Lecoq de Boisbaudran in C. R. Acad. Sci. 89 (1879) 212-214 ends with the words
    “…je propose le nom de samarium (symbole = Sm) dérivé de la racine qui a déjà servi à former le mot samarskite.”
    […I propose the name samarium (symbol = Sm) derived from the same root
    which has already served to form the word samarskite.]

    After this precedent, the note by Lecoq de Boibaudran in C.R. Acad. Sci. 102 (1886) 902 just tersely proposes the name gadolinium (symbol = Gd), noting that the proposal has been chosen by Monsieur de Marignac.


Leave a Reply

Kindly review our community guidelines before leaving a comment.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *