Which towns and cities are lucky enough to have an element named after them? 32 of the 118 element names are associated with places on Earth, though for this list i am excluding places named after whole countries (eg Francium for France, Nihonium for Japan) or continents (eg Europium, Americium), states/provinces (eg Californium, Hassium for Hesse in Germany) and regions (eg Scandium for Scandinavium).
Would you believe that this tiny village in eastern Sweden has not one, not two, not three but FOUR chemical elements named after it! The chemical elements yttrium (Y), ytterbium (Yb), erbium(Er) and terbium (Tb) are all named after Ytterby. In 1787 Lieutenant Carl Axel Arrhenius was exploring a nearby mine when he discovered a new black mineral. Finnish chemist Johan Gadolin analysed the rock, later named Gadolinite. It proved to be a rich source of new elements, eventually seven new elements were found in the minerals of Ytterby's mine! Nowadays a historical marker marks the entrance to the mine and this little piece of scientific history.
Darmstadt in Hesse, Germany is home to the The GSI Helmholtz Centre for Heavy Ion Research. Several schemical elements were discovered here including bohrium, meitnerium, hassium, roentgenium, and copernicium. These are all rare and highly radioactive elements. In 1994 the Centre discovered element 110 which has a half life of just 12.7 seconds. Possibly running low on famous scientists to name their discoveries after, the element was named after their hometown: Darmstadtium. Guided tours are available for groups of 10-40 people.
This village in the Highlands of Scotland has a name meaning "nose of the fairy hill". In nearby hills, minerals were mined from the 18th century onwards and the mineral strontianite led to the isolation of the element Strontium in 1808 by Humphrey Davy using the new technique of electrolysis. Strontium was heavily used in making cathode ray tubes for televisions, but new LED and LCD screens do not require it. Today the village has a population of around 350. Visitors come to see the nearby Ariundle Oakwood National Nature Reserve, a remnant of ancient oak woods that once spanned the coast of Europe from Norway to Portugal.
Strontian, Acharacle PH36 4BB, UK
There is only one chemical element named after a river: the rare but naturally occurring Rhenium, element 75 is named after Europe’s great river, the Rhine. While discovered by German scientists Walter Noddack, Ida Noddack, and Otto Berg in 1925, the greatest deposits are found in Chile. Rhenium is used to make superalloys used for jet engine parts.
When Dmitri Mendeleev created the first periodic table in 1869 he left gaps where he predicted new elements should be. More than 50 years later, the Dutch/Hungarian duo of Dirk Coster and Georg von Hevesy proved him right in 1923 as they discovered the element, while based in Copenhagen. The pair named the element after the Latin name for Copenhagen, Hafnia, hence Hafnium. Hevesy later won the Nobel Prize. Today the Faculty of Science of the University of Copenhagen has a hafnium atom in its logo.
Per Teodor Cleve (born 1840 – 18 June 1905) may have been his fathers 13th child but he was not an unlucky man. He studied chemistry and natural sciences and in 1879 discovered a new element which he named Holmium after the Latin name for his hometown of Stockholm, Holmia. Holmium is the most magnetic of all the elements and is used in the strongest magnets.
By 2003 squabbling about what to name the transuranic elements had mostly subsided and so when a joint team of Russians and Americans discovered artificial element 115 at JINR in Dubna, Moscow Oblast it was agreed to name it Moscovium after the Russian capital city. Only 100 atoms of Moscovium have been observed to date making it one of the rarest of all elements!
The Soviet Joint Institute for Nuclear Research (JINR) based in the City of Dubna, Russia was the first to claim the discovery of the highly radioactive element 105 in 1968, closely followed by the American Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory in 1970. A three decade squabble over what to name this and related elements was finally resolved in 1993 with the naming of Dubnium. Today in Dubna you can visit the Museum of the History of Science and Technology run by JINR where you may bump into one of the more than 1200 scientific researchers based in the town. The city is also home to one the worlds tallest statues of Lenin, at 25m high.
Moscow Oblast, Russia
How does a stonemasons apprentice from Essex, England born in 1799 get his name on the 116th element of the periodic table, discovered 201 years later? Robert Livermore was aged 17 when he joined a merchant ship headed to America, enlisted in the US Navy and fought in the Peruvian War of Independence against Spain. In 1822 he deserted his ship in California, later buying land and operating a ranch. After his death in 1858, William Mendenhall named the nearby town he founded Livermore, CA. The name stuck and in 1952 the University of California, Berkeley founded a laboratory here , the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. It was here in 2000 that scientists finally synthesised element 116: Livermorium. What Robert Livermore would think of this is anyone's guess!
W Gate Dr, Livermore, CA 94550, USA
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