Illustration of Nobelium

1958 Nobelium

The book of science

Tom Sharp

Dubna, BerkeleyAlbert Ghiorso, Torbjørn Sikkeland, John R. Walton, Glenn T. Seaborg, E. D. Donets, V. A. Shchegolev, V. A. Ermakov elements Illustration of Nobelium


A team at the Nobel Institute in Sweden thought for a while they had made it. Ghiorso’s team at Berkeley said they made it. A team at Dubna said Berkeley was mistaken and they made it first at Dubna. The Swedish team had bombarded curium with carbon-13, producing alpha radiation from the decay of some heavy element but it turned out they had produced radioactive thorium. The Berkeley team bombarded curium with carbon-12, using their new heavy-ion accelerator and thought they had detected fermium from the decay of 102; however, later tests showed it was californium. The Soviet team bombarded plutonium with oxygen-16, and uranium with neon, and they also detected fermium but the half life for the presumed element 102 was longer than expected, so the confusion continued until 1967. It is generally accepted that both the American and Soviet teams discovered element 102, but the name for it that the Swedish team proposed is the one that stuck.

Atomic number 102

The chemical behavior of nobelium in aqueous solution has been studied although some uncertainty about its ionization potential has not been resolved. It has not been possible to prepare nobelium in bulk so its bulk properties can only be predicted according to its position in the periodic table.

Heavy stuff

Sometimes a good idea slips away like nobelium isotopes with half lives of less than a minute. Sometimes half of a good idea sticks around for fifty eight minutes like nobelium-259.

Confusion about the creation of nobelium was caused by different isotopes resulting from different conditions at the different labs.

See also in The book of science:

Readings in wikipedia:

Other readings:

  • Nobelium,” Elementymology & Elements Multidict, by Peter van der Krogt