The Chemical Elements

Their Discovery and the Origins of their Names

This is an effort to present the history of the discovery of the chemical elements and the origins of their names in a way that is both useful and interesting.  In some cases enough information is provided so that with adequate caution, an interested chemist might duplicate some of the historical chemistry that led to our current understanding.  It is hoped that the following screens provide an enjoyable way to learn more about the chemical elements that comprise our world.
You can know the name of a bird (or element) in all the languages of the world, but when you're finished, you'll know absolutely nothing whatever about the bird (or element)... So let's look at the bird to see what it's doing—that's what counts.  I've learned very early the difference between knowing the name of something and knowing something.
—Richard Feynman

This project originated in 1990 when the author, having read an article by Vivi Ringnes about the origins of the element names, speculated that the computer might provide a better way to present that information. The author of this site used HyperStudio® to create a series of hypermedia stacks using the Apple IIgs computer platform.  The following web pages are a translation of those stacks to HTML, an effort which was launched on the last day of the old millennium, 2000.  (Some people celebrate such events differently!)  The information has been updated to include recently discovered elements and greatly expanded to include information about the discoveries and the people responsible.

While the author believes it paramount to preserve historical accuracy, there is a risk in condensing history that unintentional errors occur.  If any error is found, please use the e-mail link found at the bottom of every screen to propose a correction.


dot  To proceed, click on any element below or on one of the catagories for naming.

ImageMap Chart


For Additional Information
Peter van der Krogt (Delft, The Netherlands) has an extensive etymology of the names of the chemical elements, their names in over 70 languages, and some photographs at

NSTAs SciLink
Selected by the SciLinks program,
a service of National Science Teachers Association.
Copyright 1999-2009.
click icon to link the SciLinks.

Selected by PSIgate, (now subsumed in intute)
a former service of the University of Manchester, UK.
click icon to link to intute, their index and search function

Navigate by clicking the periodic chart (above) or the text table (below)
alchemy planets other celestial objects color other properties myths people minerals ore mines other places combination names
to site menu Introduction to
Development of Periodic Chart
18th Century vocabulary,
index of people
chemistry physics
created 31 December 2000
latest revision 10 October 2009
by D Trapp
Mac made