Saturday, 10 July 2004


I posted a note on 1st July about the spoof on the naming of "aluminium" dreamed up by the Los Alamos National Laboratory's Chemistry Division, or, as they are known in vaudeville, The Comical Alamos. Although it's a poor joke, I did learn one thing from it, which is that the reason why "Aluminium" was finally settled on was that most elements end in "ium". As Tom Lehrer taught us:
There's yttrium, ytterbium, actinium, rubidium,
And boron, gadolinium, niobium, iridium......

..and so on and on..**
But after going through the lot, to the tune of the Major-General's Song from Gilbert & Sullivan's The Pirates Of Penzance, he notes that:
These are the only ones of which the news has come to Hahvard,
And there may be many others but they haven't been discahvered.

Yes, indeed: since the song was written, the following have been discahvered: Lawrencium (Lr), Rutherfordium (Rf), Dubnium (Db), Seaborgium (Sg), Bohrium (Bh), Hassium (Hs), Meitnerium (Mt) and several others yet un-named.

It seems that "aluminium" was also the accepted spelling in the U.S. until 1925, at which time the American Chemical Society officially decided to use the name "aluminum" thereafter in their publications. No reason is given, but of course that was a vintage period in the United States for daft decisions, the twenties having got off to a splendidly loopy start with the Volstead Act.
** But see HERE for a better version

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